When I first graduated from college and landed a job in the city, one of my coworkers accompanied me on a lunchtime walk. As we were strolling a downtown sidewalk she paused and looked up. “People never remember to do this,” she said. “These old buildings are just beautiful,” she continued, “but so few of us actually pause to look up and admire their architecture.” Twenty years later, I am still looking up in the city…past the bustling street and up into the sky. I am awed by the carved stone, the carefully pointed brick, and the majestic buttresses. But there’s another element of big city buildings that just fascinates me: the windows.
I am a person who likes to look into windows. At the risk of sounding like a peeping tom, let me clarify. I am not interested in seeing the people inside the windows, per se. What peaks my curiosity is the glow of light that comes from those windows. Driving past a tall building, those lights invite my curiosity. There are so many stories illuminated by those lights. There are single people, couples, families who are living lives I know nothing about. They are old and young, straight and gay, rich and poor, happy and sad. They have struggles and celebrations that will never intersect with my life. And yet, they are so interesting to me. Maybe it is because I am a storyteller at heart. Maybe it is because I just happen to like the diversity found in people. Or, maybe it is because when I stare at those little lights, hundreds of windows illuminated, I suddenly feel like a small part of a great big world. I am humbled…and intrigued. And it makes me happy to see those lights glow.
I was recently having a conversation with a friend who is newly divorced. After 30 years of marriage, he finds himself single and in a new apartment. Turns out that his daughter and her mother (his ex) were scheduled to visit the following night. Apparently, his daughter’s offer to help decorate the new place included bringing her mother along for a second opinion about curtains. When he told me about this seemingly simple (although I thought it odd) plan, it occurred to me that I’m not the only one who is interested in windows. In fact, the stated focus on curtains – while it may be literal to them – is overwhelmingly metaphoric to me. For the duration of the visit, the ex wife will be invited into a life she no longer shares. On some level, she will no longer need to wonder about the glow of light from the outside. Instead, she will be able to walk around on the inside. My guess is that for the entire visit she will be assessing how well he is doing without her. Perhaps he will do the same of her. And once his window is neatly decorated, she will once again be framing his view of the world, even if this time it is a more literal application.
There is a saying, “When God closes a door, he opens a window.” Gratitude lies in that window. Remember that doors are just solid pieces of wood, designed to keep things out. Windows, however, open wide to fresh ideas and possibilities. And so as I think about my friend who is rebuilding a life different than the one he expected, or about the hundreds of lives represented in those apartment buildings, I say this: Keep your windows open to the world. From them, cast a light that shines a warm and inviting glow. And if every once in a while you need to draw the curtains to sit in darkness, remember that there are people like me … people who look forward to seeing your window lights shine. And shine, you will!