The basic format of Open Homes,
Listening Hearts is a shared meal and conversation. It is important
for this to be adapted to your own situation so that your guests
can learn about you and your culture while you learn about theirs.
The goal is not to argue over
differences or point out faults, nor is it to plan a project for
solving community problems. That can come later, if the people involved
feel it is a good idea.
Instead, the focus is personal
storytelling. Each person will be given time to tell a story from
his or her personal experience. This is a great way to learn about
others and to share your view of life. Bishop Desmond Tutu once
said that storytelling can be a path to healing painful divisions
in our country.
To begin, people could share
a story of a time when they tried to tell someone something but
felt they werent being heard. This might be a humorous or
a serious story. They could also explain why they felt that way.
That would help everyone think about good listening skills and about
any personal or cultural expectations of the group.
Then, starting with the host,
each person could tell a story about herself or himself related
to one topic, or each person could choose or be given a different
topic. There are also some storytelling board
games you can use.
Storytelling topics could include:
- Describe a time when you
didnt feel properly recognized for something you accomplished
- Describe a time you felt
respected by others of your culture or faith
- Describe a time you felt
powerless to change a situation because of your culture or faith
- Describe a time you had a
vision and made it happen
- Tell about your favorite
cultural or religious celebration and why it is special to you
- Tell what your name means
and why it was given to you
- Tell something that you feel
people dont understand about your culture or faith
- Give a personal response
to a challenging quote such as: If only there were
evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it
were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy
them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart
of every human being. (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)
On the street, in the news,
at the gym -- every day we see people who are very different from
us -- people whom we dont understand. Maybe we are afraid
of them, maybe we are angry at them, maybe we wish theyd go
away. But they arent going away. Today, the whole world is
represented in the people of America. And if this great American
experiment is to succeed, we each have to learn to live better with
those people. Open Homes, Listening Hearts is an opportunity
to break through some of the confusion and misunderstanding through
hospitality and storytelling.
This task is not the responsibility
of any one group. All have a part: liberals and conservatives, young
and old, immigrant and native. By connecting the rich resources
of our many cultures, we can make America a place of hope, creativity
and opportunity for everyone. And, hopefully, we will provide a
model for a world torn apart by racial, religious and ethnic hatred
In 2002, Initiatives
of Change established Open Homes, Listening Hearts as a
day when individuals around the world could reach out to people
with whom they wouldnt normally interactusually of a
different race, ethnicity or religionand include those people
in occasions in their homes or community.
On previous Open Homes days,
people from America to Australia shared hospitality and storytelling.
The events involved hosts and guests from Afghanistan, Albania,
Australia, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Croatia,
Fiji, the Republic of Georgia, India, Iran, Iraq, Korea, Kosovo,
Mexico, Pakistan, Turkey, the US and Venezuela; among them were
Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and people of no particular
The goal is for people in our
often disconnected communities to truly hear and be heard without
judgment or blame. Deeply held beliefs and attitudes are usually
formed by specific personal experiences, so the focus of Open Homes
is to discover these experiences through personal storytelling.
Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa once told members of Congress
that the most effective way to heal the divisions and wounds of
history in the US is to provide opportunities for Americans of all
backgrounds to tell their stories.
This annual, international event
provides a practical way of building bridges and creating new friendships
across cultures, religions and traditions. Although many people
already do this sort of thing individually, Open Homes, Listening
Hearts is a unique opportunity for united action involving a worldwide