After the presidential election, a friend and I packed our bags and headed out of Texas to New Orleans for the weekend. We would be staying with a friend’s friend, a generous and thoughtful Louisiana man who we’d meet on arrival.
Without hesitation, our host opened his home, fed us and showed immense hospitality. It was with great ease we were welcomed into the local world, a dream of a place, by a person who trusted us to reciprocate the kind of spirit he was extending: the essence of an expanded heart, one that shows a departure from fear and a promise of embracing the idea of community and friendship without traditional boundaries.
As we departed from New Orleans I was hit with the retrospective allowance of just how many times I’d been welcomed into the galaxies of people who orbit in a rotation of love and the concept of an inclusive neighborhood. In every person’s residence, there is a probable miracle that can be ignited in the decision to make room for colossal and impactful generosity.
This past summer, I left the west coast to take a long road trip in the direction of Texas. I made my way by couchsurfing in the homes of several people I didn’t know and who had never met me. There was risk on both sides but in the best of scenarios, the option for vulnerability appeared and thus, connection. I was welcomed into the lives of strangers who showed me how they lived.
These people lived differently than I did and I could recognize that, but there were similarities as well, as the balance of life would have it. In Albuquerque, I had wonderful hosts who showed me their city and shared a certain kind of magic that exists beyond the boundary of fear. In our many chances to recognize people, small details will rise and show us how most people intend to live their lives: with grace and effort, in trust and in hope. Our world is complicated, but every person has a neighbor and every person is a neighbor. How can this idea impact our sense of place?
Generosity of the heart may seem rare in times of tumultuous political periods, but I would like to propose a different design: that generosity is never scarce because it can be created from the open-ended immortal of the heart. Generosity is plentiful and uninhibited in its sincerity. Most people are generous everyday, with their children, their neighbors and their friends. This is a good place to start. Our grace and compassion shouldn’t end at our front door; instead, it should spread from here. Kindness and inclusivity should be like Gatsby’s lawn: enormous, running out into the horizon and stretching beyond us the way the promise of a bright future does.
Countless homes have been open to me and I continue to learn acceptance, respect and understanding of the people who live there. I have questioned recently who my neighbors and fellow countrymen are, in light of immense trends of bigotry, racism and chauvinism. There is great grief and disgust in knowing the tremendous amount of work we could undo in the way of human rights and progress with such pervasive idiocy and prejudice in our nation. As we know, these attitudes and behaviors have been a historical presence and persist even still.
In a world that oftentimes makes no sense at all, a quick recollection of the humanity I have been gifted brings me back to the possibility of an original rejection of all that is ugly and unjust. There is no simple solution or answer, but it’s important to begin anew. We can begin as parents, as neighbors, as coworkers—whatever role we find ourselves in throughout the day, to outstretch our arms in decency and open the door to our homes. We are amidst a great chance to redefine what home means. There is a perpetual resilience in the revival of kindness. Let’s begin now, while there’s still time.
Get to know your neighbor, it may be a surprise just how far your zip code reaches.
Savanna is a graduate of Oregon State University with a degree in Social Science. She lives in Austin, Texas where she works at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She likes cactus plants, wiener dogs and seeing live music.