This I Believe

Tina - Sewanee, Tennessee
Entered on January 3, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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This I Believe…..

By Tina Nader

I believe in openness….. in open minds, in open hearts, in open arms, and even in open doors.

My belief has been solidified over the past three years while my family and I lived in South Africa. We moved there in 2003 – in time to celebrate ten years of South African democracy. I discovered that some South Africans believed democracy meant that now everyone has the right to be robbed. In a country where more people don’t have – than have – crime is an ever present possibility. However, I was alarmed to see shards of glass camouflaged atop ivy covered, cement walls surrounding the homes in most neighborhoods. The intent was to slice open potential trespassers.

Our South African friends warned us not to open our door to the daily stream of people who came begging for food, clothing and jobs. Rather, they told us to put bags of donations on the wall in front of our house…so that we would not have human contact and risk personal harm.

…but I did not listen to them – much to my children’s chagrin. I opened our door time and time again…and looked into eyes – sometimes swollen from tears or bloodshot from alcohol or glazed from drugs – of the beggars on our doorstep. My intent was to be open to their humanity…to catch a glimmer of the life force which connected us and which affirmed our mutual right to exist. Sometimes, the haze of mental or emotional imbalance was too thick to penetrate…but sometimes I was gifted with a song or a blessing from the stranger at our door.

It is true that to be open is to be vulnerable…to be exposed…to risk possible danger. But it is an uncertain risk. However, as nature teaches, not to be open is to risk much more. A body of water that has no flow in or out will certainly stagnate. A bud that does not open will not bloom and bear fruit. A human being who cannot take in food or water or air will eventually die. A country terrorized by fear and paranoia will close itself off from social and cultural intercourse….and like a pond which has no flow in or out – will stagnate.

When my husband and I first went to South Africa we met a man named William. William, who is a black South African in his fifties, had recently moved into an Afrikaner suburb. He decided not to build a wall around his house. When one of William’s white neighbors questioned his decision, William replied…

You must understand. My whole life, I had to live restricted by walls. It was as if I could only look at the world through a keyhole. Now that I am free, I want to wake up every morning and look out my window and see the sun shining on the whole world!

Like William, I believe in the freedom that only openness can bring.