I was going to the grocery store and while walking up to the grocery cart, I noticed something on my key ring. It was a key that’s been there for a long time, years even. A house key that doesn’t open my front door, or my garage door, or even my office door. It is a neighbour’s key. I had not realized that it was there, it is just part of the jangling mass I carry around with me. But in that moment I stood there with this beautiful comforting peace: my neighbour and I share trust. We have each other’s house keys. I felt at home.
Today many of my neighbours can unlock their doors with a smart-phone app for me if they need to, and I’ve been let in from miles away to pick up this or that from a neighbours home. But there is something strange and vulnerable about sharing a house key. It says there is trust, and trust does not come easily.
I read a story by author Bob Goff who, after the sadness of 9/11, decided to sit down with his children and write letters to world leaders. Some did not write back, but a couple dozen did. He boldly asked them if they could meet, and some of them said they would. Soon he found himself traveling around the world to meet with leaders, talk, and reach out. Bob Goff did something even more surprising. To each leader he gave them his house key. He wanted each to know that they were invited to come over and let themselves in, anytime. It was a gesture of trust in a time when trust was low. It was an invitation to friendship, hospitality, and care. It was what the world needed in a dark time.
Trust is something that is offered, nurtured and it grows between people over time. When times are hard, trust has to be protected and guarded against all those forces that would wish to erode it. Author and professor Christine Pohl writes that, “without trust, no community functions.” In times of crisis, or under the wearing sorrow and frustration of what we are experiencing now in this pandemic season, trust can take a sharp blow. We begin to believe lies about each other in the places where distance seems to push us apart. However those communities that are able to sustain, and even nurture trust between each other, those are the neighbourhoods that will emerge renewed and capable of growth.
Everything in our world moves at the speed of trust. Mistrust is like grit under a sled, it slows us down. But gestures that foster trust remove friction and invite us to move forward, together. When you think about your neighbourhood or community, what has eroded or built trust between you and others?
When Bob Goff handed out his house key to all those world leaders he could have returned home with fear that his house and security was at risk. In reality, his gesture of trust likely increased his sense of security, purpose, and his new friendships became a highlight to him and his children. This is what trust does: it gathers community, makes friends, opens doors, and ultimately creates a world of connections. Opening ourselves in trust is not the risk we think it is. Living in mistrust certainly is.
You may not go around giving out your house keys, but we each have ways to foster trust. Be bold, because the more trust you create, the more you enjoy. There is a beautiful comfort in knowing you are home.