Open Hearts, Open Hands are not new images for those inclined to mysticism or involved in community action for justice. They are profoundly powerful as symbols, signs, and perhaps even as samples of the Holy One. If one is at all serious about stepping out upon The Way, then contemplating those first steps are important -- primarily because those steps establish patterns which either serve to keep us opening, or eventually compel us to "hunker down" into appearances, habits, and rituals.
The first symbol of the movement of open hearts, open hands is that of the basin and the towel. In the story from the Gospel of Yeshua, he took a simple basin, and wrapped a towel about his waist, and proceeded to wash the feet of his friends. He didn't question their worthiness; he didn't require a penitential service; he didn't insist upon some sort of public humiliation to qualify for that service or for his forgiveness. As he did, so too must we do. He embraced his friends, and asked them to do the same. It might seem silly, but the question needs to be asked: how do you forgive your friends? If you can't start with them, how the heck will you be able to move on to enemies? There are other symbols, but this is a good practical starting point.
Next we come to signs. If you were to ask a saint about a genuine sign of someone being "on the way", they would all say humility. It used to be said that "humility was the Queen of all virtues". But how to translate humility into something for our open hands to get ahold of? How about kindness? Yes, kindness. A humble person is nice! A humble person looks for the good in another. A humble person takes the time needed to understand anothers' deepest pains, losses, and fears. A humble person does not save up ammunition to use against someone somewhere down the line. A humble person never creates the circumstances for someone else to hurt -- deliberately. A humble person proclaims his or her sins if they hear someone gossiping about someone else. A humble person protects his friends, welcomes the stranger, forgives the wrongdoer, assists the weak when they fail, and always stands in solidarity with anyone who is being marginalized or tossed out of the circle of community. (There is enough here for everyone to work on something).
Finally, we come to "samples of the Holy One". The "easy" suggestion might be to open a soup kitchen or form a community! And you could do that! Without a doubt, those endeavors are very much needed nearly everywhere and would be great. But my suggestion for a "sample of the Holy One" is a tad bit different: find someone who has been beaten up, time and time again, and yet still has the capacity and the desire to love and love and love some more! "Though my family has rejected me, my friends have deserted me, I'm no longer wanted at my job, I've got bills I know I'll never see the end of, you know, the list could keep right on going, but dammit! Bring it on! My life has been one wild ride and through it all I've realized that love is all that matters! I just want to love -- it'd be great if you loved me... but regardless, I'm sliding into home-plate all beat-up, battered, bruised, scarred, and bloodied. I'm going to love without limits, no matter all else, you can count me a failure at everything, but I will to love!" When you find this person, side right up, ask for some stories, some little bit of wisdom and grace for your journey... you'll be receiving a sample of the Holy One...
So! Begin (or renew) your journey upon The Way, with open hearts and open hands. Stick to it. Keep showing up. Take up the basin and towel. Be humble, nice, and kind. And remember to listen...
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.