In a world where social and political discourse is so dominated by the (felt) need to capture and keep the "news-cycle," I find these words from Henri Nouwen very hopeful and challenging:
"Creating space for the other is far from an easy task. It requires hard concentration and articulate work. It is like the task of a patrolman trying to create some space in the middle of a mob of panic-driven people for an ambulance to reach the center of an accident. Indeed, more often than not rivalry and competition, desire for power and immediate results, impatience and frustration, and, most of all, plain fear make their forceful demands and tend to fill every possible empty corner of our life. Empty space tends to create fear. As long as our minds, hearts and hands are occupied we can avoid confronting the painful questions, to which we never gave much attention and which we do not want to surface. 'Being busy' has become a status symbol, and most people keep encouraging each other to keep their body and mind in constant motion. From a distance, it appears that we try to keep each other filled with words and actions, without tolerance for a moment of silence...But by filling every empty corner and occupying every empty time...hospitality becomes more oppressive than revealing.
Occupation and not empty space is what most of us are looking for. When we are not occupied we become restless. We even become fearful when we do not know what we will do for the next hour, the next day of the next year. Then occupation is called a blessing and emptiness a curse. Many telephone conversations begin with the words: 'I know you are busy, but...' and we would confuse the speaker and even harm our reputation were we to say, 'Oh no, I am completely free, today, tomorrow and the whole week.' Our client might well lose interest in a man who has so little to do.
So we can see that creating space is far from easy in our occupied and preoccupied society. And still, if we expect any salvation, redemption, healing and new life, the first thing we need is an open and receptive place where something can happen to us. Hospitality, therefore, is such an important attitude. We cannot change the world by a new plan, project or idea. We cannot even change other people by our convictions, stories, advice and proposals, but we can offer space where people are encouraged to disarm themselves, to lay aside their occupations and preoccupations and listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in their own center (selections from chapter 4, "Reaching Out")."