In the Eastern Russian Orthodox Church there is a particular group of people called the “Poustinikki.” They are sometimes known as hermits because they would withdraw to the “poustinia,” (which is the Russian word for desert) to pray in solitude.
The Poustinikki live in solitude but not in isolation. The Russian word for “solitude” actually means, “being with everybody.” They lived at the edge of the village and have a custom in which “the latch was always off the door.” It is an indication of their availability.
The “Poustinikki” do not actively go to look for people to help but they always welcome anyone who comes to them for help.
If someone needs a cup of tea or some bread, the latch is always off the door. The Poustinikki would share whatever they have with them.
If someone needs prayer or some counsel, the latch is always off the door. The Poustinikki are prepared to be interrupted.
If the local farmer needs his crops gathered in before the rains come, the Poustinikki would go into the fields until the harvest is done.
Such is the availability of the Poustinikki. Villagers are always glad to have Poustinikki living close by.
Just so, our neighborhood and our community would be glad to have “Poustinikki” living close by.
The question is, “Are we living with the latch off our doors?” Are we available to those who come to us for help? Are we prepared to do things that are not on our “Do List” for the day?
Our Lord Jesus told in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. The Priest and the Levite ignored the cry for help. The latch was not off the door of availability. I am certain they would want to help. The laws of God they learned and taught would have reminded them. But at that moment it was most inconvenient to help, to say the least.
So often when confronted by inconvenience, we come face to face with our own selfishness.
Robert Foster has this to share.
“As I was in the frantic final throes of writing my doctoral dissertation, I received a phone call from a friend. His wife had taken the car and he wondered if I could take him on a number of errands. Trapped, I consented, inwardly cursing my luck. As I ran out the door I grabbed Bonheoffer’s “Life Together”, thinking that I might have an opportunity to read in it. Through each errand I inwardly fretted and fumed at the loss of precious time. Finally, at a supermarket, the final stop, I waved my friend on saying I would wait in the car. I picked up my book, opened it to the marker and read these words: “The second service that one should perform for another in a Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest service. One who worries about the loss of time that such petty, outward acts of helpfulness entail is usually taking the importance of his own career too solemnly.”
Let’s learn from the Poustinikki. Let’s be available to help even when it is inconvenient. Let the latch always be off our doors.