The Beginning Of Caring for Others
Have you been invited by a more experienced member to do a home visit with them? This is one of the first steps to doing the Bodhisattva practice of caring for others.
The Purpose of a Home Visit
I’m sure you’ve heard that the whole purpose of the SGI organization is to help people become happy. Home visits are directed toward that end.
A home visit has a dual purpose, to develop deep friendships as well as encouraging the practice of the person being visited.
Both the Visitor and The Visited Receive Benefit
Sometimes someone new to doing home visits can feel a little nervous. So let’s see how these practitioners feel about doing them.
Three experienced practitioners sat in Tom and Sarah’s living room discussing how they felt about supporting another person through visiting them at home and encouraging them. Sarah spoke. “I love doing visits in a person’s home,” she said smiling.“I chant for someone beforehand, to clear my mind and focus on the challenge faced by the person we are going to see. I find that ways to encourage them come to mind. So do references from the writings of Nichiren or President Ikeda which might be helpful. When I go, I feel sharper, on top of the situation.”
Neal nodded. “I chant to raise my state of life so I can embody a strong spirit of optimism. Then I can pass on positive energy to someone else. We have a practitioner who has cancer and is frequently down. After we visit you can see she has more energy. Being a part of supporting her makes me feel wonderful. When I chant for others, I know I’m practicing how to keep my own life positive and strong so I can live with a sense of joy.”
Sarah smiled. “Just recently, Cara and I visited Anna. She’d lost her profession and was close to being homeless. Anna didn’t have much money for gas to come to meetings. She didn’t realize she could chant for the resources to be able to come. We told her to challenge this situation and to chant for the necessary gas money, not to accept scant finances as an ongoing way of life. Cara shared her experience with her as she had had limited finances when she was younger.”
Anna was very encouraged by Cara’s experience and told us she was going to try challenging her issues with money. We both went home and chanted for Anna to overcome her financial problem.
The next week we saw Anna arrive at meetings with her daughter. For both of us who had encouraged her, it was a wonderful feeling to see her take hold of her life and take a step towards overcoming the barrier to create what she wanted. Since then she’s stabilized her financial situation and is renting an apartment.”
Marla commented, “One of the things I love about doing visits is the wonderful experiences you hear. Sometimes I think the person I am visiting encourages me more than I encourage them.” As you can see, for these practitioners to support other people is not a duty, but has become a joy. As is the way in Bodhisattva practice, both the people who support others, and the people they visit, receive benefit.
How Do You Decide Who to Visit?
A district will try to visit everyone from time to time. District leaders are aware of people, who seem to be having difficulties in their lives or struggling with the practice. It’s always a good idea to touch base with them when they haven’t been seen for a while just to make sure they are all right. Sometimes you go on a home visit when a person has experienced a crisis such as a death of someone close to them. Sometimes you go when a celebration is in order.
How Long Is A Visit?
A home visit doesn’t have to be long. Some can be 10-20 minutes. These might happen when you haven’t seen someone, they aren’t responding to phone calls and you just want to touch base and make sure the person is all right. Even dropping in for 5 minutes can accomplish this.
You should schedule a visit that might be longer. Some can last an hour or longer. These longer visits tend to happen when a person is really challenging a problem or is deeply discouraged and needs a lot of support. You’ll know what is needed by what happens in the conversation.
You don’t have to take anything, but people have been known to bring flowers or an article or just something to share. What would you do with a good friend? Your heart will tell you. If you are helping to set up an altar, then to bring some fruit or greens is always nice.
What You Do In A Home Visit?
- You could explore what is happening in the life of the person you are visiting both to support them as a friend and also through the practice.
- You might chant together about a challenge or a problem. You might study something together.
- You might talk about ways to use the practice to overcome a problem that has come up.
- You might share a life experience or an article to encourage the other person.
- If the member is brand new, you might work on gongyo pronunciation with them and chant together.
- When you leave, the person you’ve visited should feel encouraged in their practice.
One experienced practitioner is always aware of what is happening in the lives of the people she visits. That allows her to have some idea of what she wants to accomplish with the visit. Driving to the visit she and her visiting partner go over the points they want to cover.
Two other people may go and see what develops during the visit. Every practitioner is different and you will develop a method which works for you.
Try It, You’ll Like It
Home visits can be a very satisfying aspect of Bodhisattva practice through the wonderful relationships which bloom. Those relationships not only grow with the person you are visiting, but between the people doing the visit together. Explaining some aspect of the practice to help another person can bring satisfaction, as you deepen your own understanding of Buddhism. Practitioners comment about the fact there is something about this work which creates a deep happiness in the life of the practitioner.
The benefits are great – so go on a home visit with the person who asked you. They will be delighted. They’ll show you what they do and give you a chance to help them. That’s the way you’ll learn. You will be glad you did. Then pass on the same opportunity to a junior member sometime in the future.
“Home Visits: One Way To Care For Others”, © Margaret Blaine, The Practical Buddhist