Who can imagine or remember it? I’m reading a book set in 1940’s South Philadelphia in a Black, close-knit community. In that era and before, folks attended church services multiple days during the week. They were there morning, noon and night WITH ALL of their six, seven or eight children in tow. Whether a Sunday service, bible study, choir performance, bake sale, community meeting, wedding or funeral, church was THE place to be.
In that era and in my grandmother’s day as a child (she’s now 100, God bless her!), these words were spoken by her and others: “Yeah, we used to sleep with the doors unlocked.” Huh?? Furthermore, she’d say, “We also used to sleep on the porch and nobody would bother us.” My grandmother lives in Kansas (where I’m from) and not the streets of Philadelphia, and was born in Oklahoma.
In comparing the geographical and demographic differences of Philly and Kansas and thinking of that era of 1940s and before, my mind cannot firmly conceive this possibility of sleeping with doors unlocked. It sounds crazy to me—leaving your doors unlocked—at night OR during the day. Sadly, those of us who are Gen Xers or Gen Y/Millenials cannot recall such a freedom or security in our lifetime. If mom and dad had to run an errand and my brother and I were home, they’d sternly look at us and say, “Lock the doors,” and “don’t answer the door for anyone.”
We lived in a predominately White, Kansas suburban/country neighborhood and school district. Our neighborhood was pin-drop quiet at night (except for chirping crickets) and relatively quiet by day with the exception of someone mowing their lawn, or the jubilant squeals of kids racing each other up and down the road on their bikes. Even in those carefree days, we were told to “lock up.”
Sadly, even in as much as we hope, we will never return to a time of, “sleeping with the doors unlocked.” Such a time is non-existent. What happened? As I mentioned in my opening, communities were close-knit. People knew each other’s children, knew each other’s business, rallied together on issues that adversely affected the community, made do with what they had and were joyful in it. Their fellowship and commune with God was within and throughout, permeating their lives, neighbor’s households and community. Yes, as cozy and Pollyanna-ish as this sounds, make no mistake: those days birthed injustices, violence and devastating family secrets.
But perhaps the closer ties to God and community strengthened them to hold up and hold each other up. Now, particularly those of us living in fast-paced urban communities, we may or may not know well our neighbors and certainly don’t know the intricacies of their lives, and maybe we’re not interested. And while parents were taking all of their six or eight kids to church in those earlier eras, unless the family is in regular fellowship with the Lord, you might see their one or two children at church or the parents may simply drop them off and return home.
Thinking of “sleeping with the doors unlocked,” I look fondly on those who experienced that security. For those of us who never experienced it and frankly never will, can we ever abide in a daily peace, comfort or security that will keep us steady and unnerved in these progressively evil days? For those reading this who are of that “sleep with the doors unlocked” generation, can you ever have peace and security again? Joyfully, yes.
The key is: trusting in God’s Word, His Promises and remaining in daily, regular commune with Him to where His Peace “that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), carries and steadies us. Praise God!
I invite you to read Psalm 91 on God’s promises made toward those who trust in Him when fear threatens your security and peace.
May you trust in the Lord to keep you and cover you and may we share His Peace with others,
Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.
Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.