23 Jul Hack Your Home Visits
I’ve got a dirty secret. My Baha’i community doesn’t do home visits.
There’s a story to it, I’m sure. As far as I can tell, there’s an unspoken agreement not to even say the term “home visit” out loud for fear of making someone upset. Not surprisingly, there’s been some pain somewhere in the past — pain that predates my arriving here about three years ago. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I know that it’s bigger than I am and that I should steer clear. My instinct is that both the visitors and the visitees felt uncomfortable and forced.
Of course, it shouldn’t be this way.
All of this did get me thinking, however, that home visits do seem pretty foreign in our Western culture. “What do you mean, I just invite myself over to someone’s house?” is a pretty hard sentiment for most Americans to internalize, no matter how many times we go through Ruhi Book 2. I know that I can get pretty annoyed when people, even great friends, drop by unannounced or without regard to my schedule. Heck, I get upset when people call me unannounced.
Life is busy, you know?
Don’t get me wrong — priorities are important (and what could be more important than serving or teaching the Faith?), but you have to respect other people’s space and time, especially in our culture where we believe that everyone should be running around like a chicken with their head cut off.
What can we do?
Well, let’s look at what a home visit should be like. First, it needs to be spiritual in focus:
“If a home visit… is defined in the courses as an opportunity to enter into a deep conversation on spiritual matters, then it should not be reduced to a mere social call in which the Faith may not even be mentioned.” — Turning Point 42.34, Messages from the Universal House of Justice
Second (and this is just my opinion), a home visit needs to be real. When you leave someone else’s home, there should be no doubt that you care about them as people, and not just as someone to be deepened. You need to share in their joys and in their triumphs, and you can’t disappear when the campaign you’re conducting is over.
Home visits between the Friends should end up making friends.
Wait, but our culture frowns on home visits, so how do we work around this?
Simple. What do you do if you want to make friends with someone? Do you wait around until they invite you over? Maybe, if you’re really shy. Do you invite yourself over? No, not in Western culture. It’s obvious, isn’t it? You invite them over to you. Make dinner. Turn on the game. Study a prayer.
Put another way: If you need permission (which you do in our society), sometimes it helps to give it to the other person first.
The great thing about inviting someone over to your place is that it gives you enough time to prepare, and it takes the stress off of them. It just feels awkward to ask someone else to host the first social encounter, right? By doing it this way instead, they don’t have to clean, they don’t have to cook; they’re taken care of. Who doesn’t like that?
Soon, perhaps they’ll be inviting you over for a home visit. Now the pressure’s off of you to fulfill some aspect of a growth cycle with a reluctant participant — instead you can build a spiritual relationship with a friend.
Permission granted, problem solved, awkwardness greatly reduced.
Why not invite a new believer or someone you haven’t seen in awhile over this weekend?