An Open Door in Atlanta

For poor people, the doors slam hard. In Atlanta, Georgia, 2,000 men and women line up every day before dawn to wait for jobs handed out at the city's day-labor pools. By 7:30 a.m. they know what the day's prospects will be, and many wander off toward the city's soup kitchens.

Most have had doors shut in their faces all their lives: doors to education and jobs, access to good medical care and adequate financial support. And in increasing numbers they are being denied the most basic right of shelter.

As the homeless wander the streets of Atlanta with an aimless and cruel freedom, 1,420 men and women sit on death row in prisons across the United States. They are facing the final pronouncement that will shut them out of life itself.

The Open Door Community in Atlanta stands as a countersign to closed doors everywhere. Its name is an invitation and a reflection of a life marked by warm generosity. Compassion for those who have been locked out—the homeless—and those who have been locked in—the prisoners—gave birth to the Open Door Community and, with a strong reliance on God's grace, sustains its life.

On a chilly night last October, the Open Door family—25 resident guests, four resident partners and their two children, a handful of resident volunteers, and the evening's volunteer cooks—gathered around the dinner table. Joining hands, they thanked God for a partner's recovery from illness, prayed that people without homes would not be hurt by the oncoming cold, and asked that there would be no trouble in the soup kitchen lunch line the next day.

As the hands dropped, someone launched into singing "Happy Birthday to Y'All," in honor of three resident guests celebrating birthdays that week. And 5-year-old Hannah and Christina ran from one to the next, offering birthday kisses to whiskered cheeks lit up with grins.

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