Ivan Ilich offers a different way of knowing who is our neighbor and I love it. Relating to some one, a stranger, even an enemy, without preconceived and conditioned notions about who is my neighbor is the right way of creating sacred relatedness. Such relationship is created by turning in, by seeing with clear eyes and by listening to the inner voice, the voice of the heart. As Ivan Ilich states, "There is no way of categorizing who my neighbor ought to be" and my neighbor,"whom I decide to, not whom I have to choose."
I came to America in 1959 at the age of 34 to study at the University of Chicago, a strange city in a strange country with no friends and friendly neighbors and very cold freezing cimate. I was going through mild depression. There was another student from Poland staying in the same building on the second floor. As I was going out to go to school on a very cold morning, he noticed me with compassionate eyes. He faced me and extended his emotionally warm hands. He touched my hands and said,"Consider me your brother!" His touch and words removed the fog of my depression. He was 7 feet tall,I am 5 and a half feet tall. He was all white. I am all brown. He was Catholic. I am a Hindu. He was from Poland. I am from India. All these outer barriers vanished, He became my good Samaritan neighbor. He has passed away. He dwells in my heart.
What has helped me to go beyond my conditioning to create a sacred form of relationship is an ongoing awareness of the walls and boundaries I create in my own mind. This way of relating myself to myself with awareness and releasing my inner boundaries helps me to relate to others in an open and free way.. It goes beyond my self- created boundaries caused by conditioning and ignorance. This is an ongoing promising journey.
May we cultivate an attitude of relating to a stranger with awareness, with an open mind and an open heart!