Today's edition marks the end of this session of DWELLINGS.
During the last few months, we've been invited to share the homes of 10 families -- if only for a few moments.
As I look back over the three 10-week runs of DWELLINGS, I realize this project has changed me.
I have a little quirk. I am often unable to recognize anyone outside their assigned spaces in my world view. I may see my mailman or the clerk at my neighborhood store daily, but my knowledge of them is minimal beyond how they relate to me. If I were to see my mailman out of uniform, out of his usual realm -- say at the mall -- I might not recognize him. His face would be familiar, but I might not place who he is.
We all connect with the peripheral people in our lives on some level -- some more easily than others.
These people become Level 2 friends -- the ones who brighten our day with a friendly "Good morning" or casual banter, but whom we really don't know.
We have conversations about good days or bad, triumphs or tragedies, or just day-to-day happenings. Our communication is pleasant, but superficial. I know details of my co-workers wedding plans, family news, favorite TV shows and favorite foods, but I don't know THEM.
What's missing? What keeps those Level 2 friends from moving to the next level?
I think Dwellings is the answer. Not this six-page weekly, but their personal dwellings.
A person doesn't really know someone until they've been inside his home. Homes are a reflection of who we are -- of our dreams, our passions and our human failings. In this way, every home is beautiful, complex and unique -- just like the people who live in them. They are visual biographies of where we've been and where we hope to go. Our pasts meet the present and look to the future in our homes.
Stepping across the threshold of a person's home is an invitation to share his life. His hobbies, his family dynamics and his sense of beauty are on display for us to see. The trappings of his home will fill in the blanks about who he is.
In days gone by, it was common to invite others into our homes. A weeknight supper was an occasion to commune, to reconnect with friends and move acquaintances up to friend status.
With the busy lives we now lead, the impromptu visit has been replaced by seeing our pseudo friends on television. We speak of Oprah, LeBron or Johnny (Carson, Cash or Depp) by their first names as if we actually know them.
Breaking bread together at simple homecooked suppers has been replaced by meetings at impersonal restaurants or over-the-top dinner parties that show more of who we want to be than who we are.
And treating a buddy to a drink is more likely to take place in a bar than on our patios.
Even children's birthday parties, once among the ultimate in home celebrations, now often take place in McDonalds or Chucky Cheese. We entertain, but keep our privacy intact.
Modern technology affords us the pleasure of getting to know people on the other side of the earth and keeps us so occupied we don't have time to get to know the next door neighbors.
The number of Level 1 friendships shrinks as we become more and more entranced by our own privacy. Blame this drop on busy schedules, technology, a work-oriented society or whatever.
But recognize the high cost of privacy.
Privacy is not that far from isolation, a state few would aspire to. Self-isolation feeds upon itself, taking us farther and farther down a path which can only lead to loneliness.
Take a look at your Level 2 friends. Is there anyone in that circle you would like to know better? Invite him into your home and into your life. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. You may discover a true friend just by opening the door, literally and figuratively.
In DWELLINGS, we learned more about some local people. There were those for whom art is their lives. And those who've mastered the art of living.
The jewelry lady and the United Way guy, Barb and Jack Haplea, are now a couple with two cats, three kids and four discerning eyes for beauty. Being invited into their home allowed us to see them beyond their respective job descriptions.
Lee and Mary Jones are no longer just the Chefs Garden owners. Looking at their home made us see who they are when the professional armor is stripped away. Their home speaks of relaxation and serenity, two qualities necessary for a couple of high-powered business persons.
For me, Jim and Marva Jackson are no longer just the brother and sister-in-law of a friend. Through these pages I learned of their commitment to a far-off congregation and their pride in their home, their music and their family.
We found out Mike Yost exchanges his firefighter hat for an engineer cap when he heads into the tiny town and rail yard in his garage.
We know each of these people a little better for our peek into their private havens.
Thank you to all of them.
Though DWELLINGS will be on summer hiatus for a while, columnist Laura Barrett, photographers Abby Bobrow, Jason Werling and Luke Wark, the writers and I will still be on the job. We want to hear about your homes, visit them and get to know you.
Because DWELLINGS has taught me the importance of opening the door to let friendship in, and because turnabout is fair play, we plan to help you get to know us. A regular feature in the fall DWELLINGS called Paper Products will take readers into Sandusky Register staffers homes. Some may be lovely by anyone's standards and some only by its occupant's, but by opening our homes to you as you share yours with us, we may be able to take a small step toward becoming friends.
And, after all, that is what a community is all about -- a circle of friends.
See you in the fall.
I'm available to chat about your home by calling 419-625-5500 Ext. 315 or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great summer. Keep in touch.