A group of people lived in a bedroom. It was a small room, but there was a place for everyone. There were no windows, but the door was open. The room was a comfortable temperature, and there was food provided when the people asked for it, although it was tepid and low in nutrients. The people all got along because there were rules for behavior in the room, and the penalty for misbehaving was to be put out of the room. Through the open door, they could see a few other bedrooms, some bigger, some smaller, but they all seemed similar and each had its own difficulties.
There was no guard keeping the people in ‘The Room’. They were not prisoners of the homeowner, they lived there rent free. However, they never left the room. Anyone that seemed to want to leave was scolded, made to feel bad and told that they didn’t appreciate how good they had it. The other people threatened them with withdrawal of friendship, fellowship and family if they thought about leaving ‘The Room’.
Some of the people mostly stayed very near the door so that they could put a foot out into the hallway when no one was looking. If anyone glanced at them, they pretended they were just walking past the door on their way further into the room.
Occasionally, someone would walk out of the room. Sometimes the people would pretend not to notice their exit, sometimes they would moan and wail – it depended on how important the person was. Sometimes, they even grabbed hold of the person’s arm and tried to pull them back before it was too late.
Why would anyone want to leave? It was comfortable, friendly, and warm in the room, and the people had as much food and drink as they wanted to ask for. Was it because of the clothes they all wore, the color of the walls, the fact that one of the other people in the room had hurt their feelings? It was safe in the room. Why would anyone want to go into the hall where there were strange noises and drafts, and they might be tempted to go into one of the other bedrooms that had different colored walls? As far as everyone knew, the people in the other bedrooms were not fed at all. Maybe murderers roamed in and out of them. You couldn’t be sure if you were safe anywhere but the ‘The Room’.
Yet, one day the girl walked out of ‘The Room’. She was sad to leave her family and friends in ‘The Room’ and worried a bit about whether she would find food and water and clothing after she left. But she had been talking to the homeowner in the evenings when everyone else was asleep, and she had been assured that she would be safe and happy elsewhere in the house as well. She had tried to tell the others that good news, but they didn’t believe that she truly had been speaking with the homeowner, and they refused to listen. Why would the homeowner say something to the girl that he had not told to the important people in ‘The Room’?
At first, when she left ‘The Room’, the girl was scared and lonely. All she saw was the hallway outside the door, and she peeked into a few of the other rooms and wasn’t impressed. She wondered if she had made a mistake. She saw her mother and grandmother crying in ‘The Room’ and felt selfish and mean.
As the girl became more comfortable outside of ‘The Room’, though, she began to explore the house. She was amazed and a little overwhelmed at the vast space in the house. Her idea of her life expanded exponentially. She saw so much more of the house, spent much more time with the homeowner, and enjoyed better food and drink, supplied freely by the homeowner any time she wanted. There were people of all kinds that she could share thoughts and hopes, ideas and fears with, and it didn’t have to be about ‘The Room’ and the rules and traditions that she was accustomed to.
Sometimes, as she happened to walk by ‘The Room’, her family and friends that still lived there told her how much she was missing, and tried to get her to come back in. She missed them, and sometimes would stand by the door and visit with them, but she didn’t have any desire to shrink her world to the size of that room again. She looked at them with pity because they didn’t know how much more they could have if they were willing to take that step out of the room.
The girl also felt sorry, and a little bit exasperated, at the people who had stepped out of ‘The Room’ but were happy to just stay in the hallway instead of exploring the house further. Some of them had broken the rules of ‘The Room’, and been pushed out, but they still wished they could go back in and didn’t want to stray far from the doorway or the hall outside. The rest of the house didn’t seem important to them. Others were afraid because they heard celebration and noise from other parts of the house and, not being used to fun and happiness, thought it might be dangerous. The girl wanted to tell them how much bigger and wider the house was than just that hallway outside of ‘The Room’ but knew that they didn’t want to hear it.
One day, the girl found a door that led outside the house. Was it possible that there were other houses with other homeowners? Looking around, she noticed that there were many different houses of different shapes and sizes and different levels of luxury and modesty. She wondered to herself if each of these houses had their own homeowners, or if they were all owned by the same being.
At that point, the girl noticed that ‘outdoors’ was another level of beauty and another amazing sense of space. A person could explore for a lifetime, learning and growing and seeing new beauties. The world was HUGE! But could the girl survive without being part of a household? All these joys and adventures were balanced by the dangers of exposure, lack of creature comforts, necessity to find food and drink, and even being part of the food chain. The girl was struck by the freedom of movement, thought, and action. There were still rules of nature, of course, but not rules enforced by the homeowner, the house, or ‘The Room’. Would the girl be able to make her own decisions, based on her own values? What were her values, anyway? Was there an ultimate ‘homeowner’ for the outdoors as well?
She was afraid, but exhilarated! Life was MORE! More than ‘The Room’, more than the house, more than any house. Life had only the limits she chose, based on her own feelings of right and wrong and feelings of her obligations and care for her fellow humans.
The girl thought about her friends and family who were content in ‘The Room’. She thought about the people who were happy in the hallways. She thought about those who were happy in the shelter of the house. She wondered if they were to see what she saw, whether they would still choose to be where they were now. As she spread her arms and ran further into the beautiful wide world, she felt pity for the people who didn’t know, the people who didn’t care to know, and the people who knew and still made the decision to stay in the house.
The girl knew that for herself, the beautiful, bountiful world where she had choices and freedom and could be her own person was where she wanted to be.
By Donna Kennedy
November 22, 2022