The evening we arrived home from our mission trip to El Salvador, I unlocked our house and was convicted by that simple act that I routinely perform. Unlocking the door was a profound demonstration of our culture of ownership and individualism. The reason unlocking the door seemed suddenly so odd was because we had spent a week in a village where houses and hearts were open and unpossessive.
We took a Frisbee, some rubber balls and a soccer ball for the children of the village to play with. Our entire group observed a different spirit among the children than we are used to seeing among children at home. Often, what we see with children here is a desire to possess something entirely. It is not easy to have a community ball because someone wants to claim ownership, or wants to monopolize the use of the ball. However, we saw none of that among the children of the village where we spent the week. It was so amazing to us that we regularly commented on it. We would hear lots of noise as children played with the items we had brought, but never any angry words, and never any tears.
One child took the Frisbee home one evening and I wondered if we would see it again the next morning. But when we arrived, there was Kevin with the Frisbee, ready to play with the other children and with us. He knew it belonged to the community and had only taken it home for safekeeping until it could be stored at the village school.
Why the difference between our children and the children we encountered in the village? I wonder if our locked doors teach our children more about title law than we realize. Our notions about possessions and ownership filter down into the minds of our children even if we have not directly taught them anything directly about these concepts. We used to hear our own boys say “Dat mine” when playing with each other or with other children. Even as we try to teach our children to share with others, our own locked doors proclaim “Dat mine” to the world outside our homes. Our keys and alarm codes speak louder to our children than our lessons about generosity and sharing.
Thomas Merton said this: “God, Who owns all things, leaves them all to themselves. He never takes them for His own, the way we take them for our own and destroy them. . . His love is not like ours. His love is unpossessive. His love is pure because it needs nothing.”
When I think of the way we saw the children share the few simple toys we brought, I believe we caught a glimpse of pure, unpossessive love. Their love and their lives reflected purity because there was nothing that they held back from us or from each other.
I wonder what I miss by living behind my locked doors. Jesus’ words in Luke 9:25 give me a clue: What advantage do people have if they gain the whole world for themselves yet perish or lose their lives?
Life doesn’t happen when doors are locked, either physical doors or the doors of my heart. Purity is not compatible with possessiveness. I pray for life, for release from locked doors.