Open Up Your Heart To The Other

Open Up Your Heart To The Other

Who is your other? On the extreme it is the man in the grainy photo in the newspaper–the man being pummeled by another another man, or dragged from a car. Or it’s a woman in a mug shot who is being charged for drug-dealing. This “other” is so easy to look away from. Because is there a connection between these two people and you or me? Remember I said extreme because the majority reading this post do not get involved in crime on the streets or get arrested. But regardless, there is a connection–these are faces of human beings. Their DNA may be different from ours, but we all go WAY BACK, we all have the same beginnings. Again, human beings. Can you open your heart to that concept? It can be really hard.


I recently read an article about a man who everyday goes into the streets of LA (and this without belonging to any organization) and works with the homeless. He might spend hours with the one person he finds who is ill or dying. That day he does what he can to help that particular individual. He is answering the call to open his heart to humanity and he is doing it with the other–the extreme other–the total stranger.

My husband volunteers with the Conejo Valley Youth Employment Service helping teens and the homeless find jobs. He does have an office where he can sit and meet with people. But when dealing with the homeless, he often deals with people who don’t keep to a schedule, who say they’ll return with a resume and don’t. It can also be frustrating with the youth who one day are all about getting a job and the next forget they even had an appointment to work on a resume, interview skills, an elevator speech. Still my husband keeps at it, opening his heart to the other, to people he has never met, knows nothing about and for some have been living on the street.


James Baldwin, author of THE FIRE NEXT TIME and other works, wrote: Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. Baldwin makes a valid point. Our ability to turn away from others, to avoid the other, to look down on the other–that often begins in the home. But I posit that it can be changed around through living and realizing the human connection. Through education and being out in the world, we all can learn that fearing the other closes us off from the splendid variety of life, of people and their ideas, of music and culture, art and writing.


Yes, it could be. Because when I walk the streets of a busy city where no one truly knows me, I become THE OTHER to someone. Maybe I’m the other because I’m not the same age as the person looking at me or because I’m a female or because I’m white. But I surely know that if I suddenly became a human being in need–if I suddenly fell to the sidewalk with a heart attack or a stroke, I would hope that someone around me would not see me as THE OTHER and walk away, but would come to my aid.


James Baldwin also wrote: There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves. So true. But when you first read that sentence, test yourself: do you immediately think of the selfish and hidden things about yourself that you try to disguise or lie about or ignore?           OR: did you immediately think about all the wonderful possibilities in your makeup that you just haven’t tapped into yet?

How great if it is and always will be the latter. If we are always opening to the possibility of our changing, of our personal growth and development–of our truly SEEING OTHER PEOPLE. That would be amazing. 


My brother Bill Pfordresher is a song writer and one of his songs urges a lover to:

Open up your heart and let it go,

That’s the way it starts,

This I know-Open up your heart to me. 

And later on the lyric is: Watching one’s life slip by day after day…

For a lover or for the love of living, don’t let time get away.


On Friday, my husband and I took the train to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. We went to a concert and then walked back to the station through an area of LA that is full of government buildings, the Catholic Church of the diocese of LA and places for many homeless people to walk or sit or sleep under the shade of a tree. A march had occurred that morning and there were crowds of people leaving the march and lots of police on motorcycles and bikes patrolling the area. What did we do? We walked. We smiled at folks on the street, stopped to ask one policeman a question and would have purchased something from a vendor but we had already eaten. We opened our hearts to LA and everything it had to offer that Friday afternoon. Call me Pollyanna if you want to. I’m no saint. But I believe that more and more we have to fight some dictum that tells us to turn away from folks because they are not JUST LIKE ME. You can volunteer or write a check, make a phone call or reach out to someone you know (maybe a stranger but more likely someone who needs a friend.) Do it today. Don’t be a person who is Watching one’s life slip by day after day…

Photo: Zocalo Public Square

10 thoughts on “Open Up Your Heart To The Other

  1. Well said. Holding a door open saying hello to everyone and anyone, little acts of kindness when out and about work to dissolve the ‘other’ aspect of us all.

  2. I am honored to see my lyrics quoted in such a wonderful BOOMER HIGHWAY. In thinking about “Open Up Your Heart To The Other”, it made me recall some of my experiences while attending St. Ignatius High School in Chicago. I graduated in 1968, but during my tenure there I was asked to open my heart to a huge cross section of people from every walk of life. St. Ignatius is a landmark building at the outskirts of downtown Chicago in not the friendliest of neighborhoods. Often times there was resentment from some of the locals at having “rich” suburban kids access their streets on their way to school. Several times I was stopped and once had to flee back to school for safety. But I never resented these encounters, nor would I press charges when asked by detectives, as I knew that this would only create a problem. Instead I tried to allow myself to be part of the fabric of this cross section of people and not be afraid to say hello and interact, which I did. And I learned, that it worked, and many of my fears abated as I grew and eventually graduated……and I was rewarded with a Jesuit education that has helped me to this day. Yes, if you “open up your heart to the other” they too can help us learn life lessons.

    • Love this, thanks. Maybe I should have asked your permission to use the song? It came into my head while we were walking on Friday. Me

      • I am honored that you used my lyrics……
        It is why we write, right big sister???? THANK YOU

  3. What a timely, thoughtful and loving post, Beth. It means so much to really see others–and be seen–in this life. Isn’t that why we’re here?

    • Hi Roxanne, thanks! Yes, we are here to meet and greet and help one another through this life. Others can be a gift. Beth

  4. What a lovely coincidence Beth, we are both quoting James Baldwin today! Yes, opening to the world with a heart full of compassion can be challenging, and yet exactly what the world needs now. Thanks for reminding us all!

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