Learning to open the heart requires first that we open our lives.
The home of whites that has never had a person of color at the supper table is a home that has missed an opportunity to grow. People of color who have never trusted a white have missed a chance to confirm the humanity of the human race. The man that has never worked with a woman as a peer, better yet as an executive, has deprived himself of the revelation of the other half of the world. The comfortable contemplative who has never served soup at a soup kitchen, or eaten lunch in the kitchen with the cook, or clerked in a thrift shop, or spent time in inner-city programs lives in an insulated bubble. The world they know cannot possibly give them the answers they seek. The adult who has never asked a child a question about life and really listened to the answer is doomed to go through life out of touch and essentially unlearned.
“When someone comes to the gate,” the Rule of Benedict instructs, “say ‘Benedicite.’” Say, in other words “Thanks be to God” that someone has come to add to our awareness of the world, to show us another way to think and be and live beyond our own small slice of the universe.
Openness is the door through which wisdom travels and contemplation begins. It is the pinnacle from which we learn that the world is much bigger, much broader than ourselves, that there is truth out there that is different from our own. The voice of God within us is not the only voice of God.
Openness is not gentility in the social arena. It is not polite listening to people with whom we inherently disagree. It is not political or civil or “nice.” It is not even simple hospitality. It is the munificent abandonment of the mind to new ideas, to new possibilities. Without an essential posture of openness, contemplation is not possible. God comes in every voice, behind every face, in every memory, deep in every struggle. To close off any of them is to close off the possibility of becoming new again ourselves.
–from Illuminated Life by Joan Chittister (Orbis)