If you visit the Netherlands, you might be surprised to find that some towns and neighbourhoods participate in an unlikely decorating practice. A friend was walking through one of these towns and noticed that nearly every home had no window coverings, blinds, or curtains. In fact, you could see right in. Why?
Some tourists think that it is because the Netherlands is a northern country and people like to enjoy the sun when it is out. Others think that it is because of cultural reasons; neighbours want to show that they are friendly and have nothing to hide. However a local told their story and said many Dutch homes do not have curtains because of the Second World War. In those days, under the threat of air raids, families spent their evenings with closed curtains and dim lights. They were afraid that if the enemy saw light from their windows, they would be bombed. It was out of terror and war that every home had curtains.
However, after the war, neighbours agreed that they would never live that way again. They not only opened their windows, but got rid of their curtains altogether. Today the tradition lives on. They want to live openly, freely, and be reminded every day that they survived and thrive – longer forced to live fearfully in darkness and closed off from each other.
There is an interesting result from all of this. Local people say that after years of living without curtains, they actually feel less like people are peeking in on them, and more like they are invited to watch the world go by around them. They feel confident, more connected, safe, and enjoy the happenings of their own communities. They like, and trust, each other.
How often are we afraid that if we open our lives, people will not like what they see. We often live in fear that others will peek in on us and judge us. So we close off our lives, live separately, and sometimes fearfully. The result is disconnected isolation. However, when we live openly with others and believe another story, that we can be confident in who we are, that we were made to connect, and that we are safe to share our lives, then we begin to live anew. We do not live with fear that people will see us, but with expectancy that we will be able to see goodness in others.
Like the Dutch, we can say that we no longer live as though life is full of imminent dangers, with terror ready to strike any minute. But rather, we can live open-handedly, generously, and freely with others in spite of dangers. Living freely takes courage and a stronger sense of hope for the life we would rather live. Fear is a liar that says we must cover and hide, faith and hope say that we are safe, welcome, and free.
May you discover that your neighbours are worth knowing, and opening your life to others is a risk worth taking. May you know that whether you have curtains or not, you are worth knowing, worth loving, and worth enjoying. We are better together and allowing ourselves the freedom to live openly with each other is the greatest gift we can give.