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Use an open door policy

Use an open door policy to embrace all people

By Lisa-Marie DiVincent
For The Register-Guard Heart-to-Heart column Saturday, Oct 10, 2009

Several years ago, I settled into a centrally located abode and decided to create an “open door” policy. I invited friends to stop in whenever they were in the neighborhood or felt like dropping by. Like a college dorm monitor, I put up a chalkboard next to the front door so folks could leave notes and spiritual quotes.

My previous house had been out of the way, up a long, steep hill. My former partner, quiet and shy, could not abide spontaneous drop-ins. Consequently, our lifestyle was pretty much “call ahead if you’re coming over.” With the new house in such an accessible location, I saw a special opportunity — to welcome friends and strangers alike. I would “abide” whoever arrived, with flexibility, patience and compassion.

What a challenge this turned out to be, in terms of feeling prepared. It actually meant being OK with not being prepared. As a recovering perfectionist struggling to keep things neat and organized, I had to abide letting people see how I really lived. I faced self-judgment about everything from my housekeeping to fluctuating moods, for people would show up no matter how tidy or social I had been feeling. Committing myself to warmly greeting “whoever, whenever” strengthened my ability to shift into an open-hearted state of mind — at a doorbell’s notice.

Soon enough, I discovered that my street was well trafficked by door-to-door canvassers, including a steady stream of missionaries. Previously I had a mixed record of welcoming such people. Now I was curious what it would be like to abide by my pledge. Unless I was late for an appointment, I invited each person in for a chat and a glass of water.

No matter how different our beliefs looked, I saw the similarities.

I shared how I, too, was on a spiritual mission of my own — in part, to embrace all people. I expressed appreciation for the dedication and courage we had in common. At first a little taken aback, they soon seemed as touched as I was. By connecting beneath the surface, we experienced the unexpected delight of meeting a friend on the path.

Another way I practice abiding is to wait for “the beloved,” which for me is God or Goddess in human form. I await my surprise visitors. I stand ready to abide each one, to patiently hear their message, their need, accepting without objection their gifts — and offering them mine without expectation.

Let me use the word “abide” in one last way: “to remain stable or in a fixed state; to continue in a place.” Abiding in this home for the past seven years, I feel blessed to have followed the simple but profound suggestion of one of my favorite teachers, Rumi, the celebrated 13th century Persian theologian and mystic who once said, “Treat each guest honorably. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

Oh, to be able to fully embody this attitude everywhere!

Lisa-Marie DiVincent participates in the coordinating team of the Eugene City of Peace, is a freelance minister, relationship counselor, mediator and Nonviolent Communication trainer. This column is coordinated by Lane Interfaith Alliance to offer inspiration, share personal spiritual experiences and bring a deeper understanding of individual faith perspectives with the intention of blessing our community and world. For information, visit www.laneinterfaithalliance.org or call 344-5693.