The Open House Movement

Alright… so, perhaps using the word “movement” in a title is a bit strong. But, I’m standing by it.

I do a lot of reading… like, a lot. Put something in my hands, related to the news, to the workplace, to historical fiction or just about anything else and I’m likely to dig into it. Because of this, I came across something a few years ago that stood out to me: most people claim to have no good friends. That’s right, when asked how many close friends they had, a GSS survey revealed that the most popular answer was “zero.”

That’s scary. From a scientific standpoint, those with no one to confide in are more likely to die of heart attacks and to come across any other number of physical ailments. But, on a more important level, in my opinion, it’s scary because we aren’t meant to do this life alone.

We are designed to connect, to laugh, to cheer each other on and to pick each other up when someone is down for the count. Loneliness is real, and, it’s devastating. I’m an introvert. I grow and crave quiet times alone. But, without a circle of friends to confide in and trust and do life with, even I can’t make it work.

I Know Because I Experienced It

I grew up in Central PA. If anyone else has come from my community or one like it, you know that a lot of us tend to stay. We don’t leave, not for long periods of time at least. I thought I wanted adventure, but, when my husband and I found ourselves uprooted to North Carolina, I learned that my life that seemed pretty quiet and self-fulfilling in PA was actually that way because – in some way – of friends.

Suddenly, in North Carolina, we knew no one. Not a single person within our city limits. It hit us – especially my extroverted husband – hard.

So… we did something about it.

We decided to open our house up to anyone. That’s right. Anyone.

It started small, with a Super Bowl party that we invited our church to, 3 weeks after moving in. We didn’t even have our couch delivered yet (Ashley Furniture came through with a loaner though! A bright red one, by the way!). It was a blast.

So… we took it further. We threw out a Facebook announcement and told our church about it. We decided that Friday nights were going to be for community. We’d make a simple dinner (there was a lot of spaghetti involved!), ask for a few days notice to be sure we had enough food, and encourage everyone we knew to come on over and bring friends if they wanted. The more the merrier.

At first, it made me a little nervous – I like my house to be in a good place before people come over, and like it cleaned up immediately after. But, this forced me to grow. It wasn’t hard: the laughs, stories and community that formed around this custom were worth it. Most importantly, people from all different groups were all about it.

It turns out, they wanted to connect too!

We became rooted where we were, developed new friendships and had something to look forward to each week.

Until… we moved.

In keeping with the tradition of our hometown, we found ourselves back in PA, a few miles from our first house, two years after our move.

Our kids were older and getting into a routine was hard. Friday nights just didn’t seem to work for anyone. But, we missed that sense of community.

So, this summer… we tried a new approach. Saturday morning brunch! Seriously. Who doesn’t love donuts, coffee and the occasional mimosa? It’s still getting started as we are just a few months in, but, we’re seeing the same thing: a small community is developing around us.

Friends who’d normally be in a given “group” are meeting other friends. Conversations on the deck are happening more often. Our kids get to play without worrying about everyday stressors. We’re meeting new friends. We have something to look forward to once again.

It all makes sense.

When thinking about the numbers up above, it all makes sense. Most of us feel isolated or confined to our day-to-day lives. We get stuck in routines and those routines are hard to break. Then, when we look around, we realize that what suffers – maybe more than anything else – is our community and our ability to connect.

What we’ve started, maintaining a true “open door policy” isn’t unique or even difficult. Which is where the “movement” term came from. I think each of us can handle a little extra community. I don’t think the size of our houses or even the size of our budgets needs to be the focus (how many times have you walked into a house and been disappointed to be offered only coffee and a donut? At the same time, how many times have you walked into a house and noticed a few specks of dust on the floor? The answer to both of those, at least to me, is zero, and I don’t think I’m alone.).

I think that if we could all get a little more “open” about our homes, and a little less guarded about “our” time, that our communities would become bigger and our friendships would become deeper. I think we’d realize that the things that seem so big, and so stressful to us are, not only all that big and stressful in the grand scheme of things, but, also not unique to us. We’d start to do this life together and spread a little love and positivity when the world around us screams “chaos,” and “disaster.”

Are your doors open? Could they be? Could a little intentional living and sharing help broaden your community, start new conversations and build new friendships? I’d like to challenge you to make your house a place that’s different. Let’s start a movement!



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