Keys of Kindness
It is fashionable to wear something called a skeleton key necklace. Women are seen wearing a single or multiple keys on chains around their necks and even men are seen with a similar key on bracelets or sipper pulls. Few, however, are aware that they are actually bringing back a rather old trend, one begun by Queen Victoria.
The British monarch of the nineteenth century was said to never wear anything adornment that did not have meaning to her. While today an antique key is considered to be somewhat mysterious or a trend of the steampunk fashion, the skeleton key was actually most practical. They were said to open almost anything, a pass key to unknown possibilities.
As discussed earlier in the first part of this two-part post on keys, the key for unlocking doors or other locked items was simply a tool. Skeleton keys are an example of the bit or barrel key. A long piece of metal much like the barrel of a gun with bits at the end that fit into the lock. I should note that such locks were notoriously easy to pick and open even without a key and yet, skeleton keys were used quite extensively for over fifteen hundred years.
Today a skeleton key seems to hint at mystery and yet, these keys were quite prominent and used everywhere. The long barrel with its bits at the end was not the only part of the key. The top of the key was almost always either a trefoil or quatrefoil representing either the Holy Trinity or the four gospels. In this way, the key also provided protection.
Perhaps because of the protection associated with the top or bow of these skeleton keys or maybe just because mankind likes to assign meaning to inanimate objects, keys have also been given special powers. Folklore states that putting keys on a table can bring chaos into a house. It was believed that women in childbirth should have a key placed in their bed and keys with a cross at the bow could cure boils. Church keys were especially powerful sand thought to cure such diseases as whooping cough or calm a temperamental child.
Today most of us have a few old keys lying around in the back of a drawer or purse. Many of us no longer even remember what locks these keys might open and yet, we are hesitant to just throw them out. Today we have another option. We can recycle our old keys and turn them into an avenue of hope, unlocking a better tomorrow. Several charities exist that will gladly accept your old keys for recycling. They are melted down for scrap metal and the proceeds used for such causes as multiple sclerosis or homeless shelters.
In part one of this two-part post on keys, we discussed the various meanings of the word “key” and its diverse history. Through recycling our old keys we can also find diverse uses for our old keys. What might look like tarnished useless metal can be the tool for kindness to another.
The world needs more kindness – guess what tomorrow’s topic will be? For now, go look through your old junk drawer or purses at the back of your closet and gather your old keys. The Key of Hope Foundation fights hunger with its key drives in schools. The opportunities are out there for you to become a key factor in making the world a better place, in creating extraordinary change in the ordinariness of today. You are the key to a better, brighter tomorrow.