In Holland today I could not help but to notice that almost every home we walked or drove by is constructed in such a way to allow for a big, usually round, window in the front room. The curtains are drawn back during the day, large potted plants line the interior of the window and sometimes fresh flowers grow on the outside. If I look closely I can see straight through a person's home and out the window on the other side (I didn't do this much, mind you, so as not be arrested as a "peeping tom"). I like this style and got to thinking about the ways large open windows on the front end of a person's home is positive for a community.
To begin with, it speaks of a community's transparency. If you can see into my window it means I am willing to risk what you may see when you look inside. If I am having a disagreement with my spouse, and it's daylight, you will see us arguing. Or if I am kissing my spouse in a passionate act of love, you'll know. You see me interact with my family, you watch me work around my home, or sit down to relax at the end of a long day. With an open window, I am vulnerable. But so are you. Because so many of the homes here are built in the same style and seem to follow the same format: I can come by your home and see you doing all the same things. Loving and hating, learning and growing, resting and working. In a community with this level of transparency people are seen just being people and that positively affects a town.
Second, this level of openness affirms the neighbor-relationship. Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself," but he was also asked, "Who is my neighbor?" That same question cannot be answered by many of us alive today, but the potential is here for me to know my neighbor on the backroads of Holland. When the person who lives next door will open the most important room in their home to me, then I am more willing to pop in and say hello. As I observed the homes here I noticed that other windows are also open. It is like one open window is a key to opening all the others. From kitchen to kitchen a woman in 1300 can wave to her friend in 1302. This invites friendship, dialogue, camaraderie, and a willingness to serve my neighbor, indeed to love them as Jesus intended.
Third, when we value transparency in the neighbor-relationship we may create an opportunity to slow down. This is good for our health, good for our environment (e.g. less travel by car or plane), and good for our souls. Tucked away in a hotel in the middle of this little community outside Amsterdam I feel more relaxed than I have in a while. I came last year, I'm here this year, and I want to come back next year. Why? Not for the work. But for the ryhthm of calm, rest, and a slower pace than we are used to in Hong Kong. I could write a book here it's so peaceful. Driving and walking these streets, watching as the Dutch gently interact with one another, and feeling the freedom of the pedals turning on the many bicycles that nearly rule the road, I recognize the value of open windows and open hearts. The two do still exist somewhere in the world. And that somewhere is here.