Recently I purchased a car with a keyless entry system, which means the fob you carry in your pocket unlocks and starts the car without a key. On a rainy day in the spring I brought the car home from the dealer, expecting to amaze my family with the new technology.

My wife was away on a mission trip, so I hustled my son and daughter quickly out of the house. I was like Moses. You would have thought I was dragging them out of the house to show them the ‘bush that doeth not burn.”

Anyway – in my haste to demonstrate how a car can start without a key — that same keyless entry system claimed its first victim. 

As the door of the house slammed behind me, the sick feeling of realization set in that I had left the keys in the house – after all, who needed them with this marvelous new invention. 

Apparently, the house hadn’t received the memo that keys are now extinct.

Remember now, it’s raining, which means we are locked out of the house in the rain. It was a Tuesday because the next day I wish Wednesday Dan would have shown up a day earlier. 

Wednesday Dan would have called someone — like a locksmith.

Wednesday Dan would have checked to see if a smaller opening could have been found.

Wednesday Dan would have waited long enough to think.

Wednesday Dan would have said to Tuesday Dan: “Please don’t grab the sledge hammer and knock the back door down because I called around and the replacement door is over $600..”

But all I had to work with that day was Tuesday Dan, and Tuesday Dan was thinking about one thing: “Get my kids out of the rain and into the house.”

Sometimes the key that provides access is right in front of us, but we don't see it.

Sometimes the key that provides access is right in front of us, but we don’t see it.

In 54 years of living, I’ve crawled through windows thinking I left my keys in the house while they were in my pocket the whole time; I’ve been stranded somewhere because my keys were locked in the car while at the mercy of strangers to help me out, and along the way have bent a few clothes hangers to assist others in getting their keys back.

Every day I get to encounter people who are, for whatever reason, locked out of something. The look on their face is familiar – it’s  an intricate blend of worry, confusion and anger. It doesn’t matter at that moment why, that’s for another day. It does matter that in a moment of hasty decisions the potential for their situation to get worse is imminent if they don’t slow down and think.

What was behind my very poor choice to knock the back door down that day in the rain?  Looking back, it’s simple – it was the overwhelming reality that I had, by my own hand, limited access and options. 

Or so I thought.

For the last 11 years I have had the joy of serving one of Toledo’s finest traditions, Cherry Street Mission Ministries, where we gladly serve one yard outside of hell – we can see the potential end of people’s lives from here.

At Cherry Street the heat is palpable, extenuated by lack and loss — lack of access and loss of options. People in a life-challenging state at that moment are the furthest away from these two critical needs. 

The fact is, people are locked out in our society! 

All around us and every day there are people who have the key in their back pocket, but have forgotten it’s there.

Or people who once had the key but are unable to immediately retrieve it.

And there are people who have been told where the key is, only to find it’s not there when they arrive.

And some people have their faces pushed against the glass, staring hopelessly at the key they cannot reach. 

There are also people who compound their problem of limited access and options through criminal behavior; they knock a door down, or, worse yet, a person.

There are women who will prostitute themselves to have access to money which opens up options. Still others medicate their lack of access and options through alcoholism or drug use. All of them are just like me on that rainy day, fixing the problem.

Or so they think.

The reason why it’s easy to criticize those who are impoverished, criminal, homeless or addicted is because the criticism is coming from those who have unlimited access and options. From that place, which is the farthest from hell’s flame, judgment and prejudice find sanctuary. 

We’ve all experienced lack of access and options from time to time.  For most of us though, our lack of access and options never materialized into drastic or destructive behavior – thank God!

The key you have in your pocket is meant to be shared with others. Trust me, your key fits into someone else’s lock. You don’t think it does, but it does.

Homeless and hurting people often fail to see the access and options available to them.

Homeless and hurting people often fail to see the access and options available to them.

You have options. You don’t have to ignore, judge or criticize. You don’t have to think that you are helpless to provide access to someone else. 

Think again. 

Through your experiences, God has given you the key for someone else.

For each of us, it’s different. My key only works in certain locks that open access and options for others. 

What does your key look like and what locks for others does it open? 

Here are a few things I try to work on every day when it comes to access and options:

1. I ask for help. The fact is we all lose our way from time to time. It's Godly to invite assistance. The good you will do in others by letting them help you will far outweigh the help they offer.

2. I’m on the lookout for the locked out. People all around you need you. They've lost their keys or, worse yet, have them but have let the hurriedness of life cause loss of memory.

 

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