As a child growing up, I had the good fortune to know and observe a wonderful friend of our family – his name was Ralph. He, and his wife Theda, had three children, and for many years our families were pretty inseparable. Growing up with a single parent, my mom, Ralph was kind of a surrogate dad; at least a great adult role model. And I couldn’t have chosen a better one.
Ralph was remarkable; the most compassionate, heart-driven person I think I have ever known. Ralph and his wife were fanatical “rock-hounds!” He owned his own lapidary, gemstone and jewelry business, much of it he collected and produced himself. Consequently, we all spent hours driving around the Mojave Desert and similar desolate places looking for geodes, petrified palm wood, Tiger Eye agate and lots of other very cool rocks. Inevitably though, it seemed like every trip we encountered someone in a crisis situation where Ralph, without hesitation, jumped in to help.
Flat tires, overheated vehicles, broken water pumps, whatever, he made sure people’s needs were met. On one occasion, we never did go rock hunting, but instead we drove a couple hours to buy parts so that he could fix this stranger’s vehicle – never asking to be reimbursed. In my home, he was always scouting out things to be fixed, and did it, as he also did within his entire neighborhood. If you needed help with anything he was there ready to render his service. He also had a pretty sizable group of senior citizens from their church on whom he routinely checked. He fixed things in their home, made sure they had groceries, and drove them if they needed transportation. His family fed the poor, they would provide clothing and, on occasion, would take in unknowns to make sure they had shelter. Ralph never complained, got angry or frustrated, and he always had the most amazing positive attitude. THIS MAN HAD HEART!
It goes without saying, I am sure that Ralph was a big influence in me choosing my career path.
I have heard it said: a life without Heart is like a field of flowers without sun, it soon withers and dies! Charles Dickens put it eloquently, “Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” Awesome words for sure.
I am always so moved by the heroic stories of Heart-Driven people. The doctors in Syria who refused to vacate during bombing raids in order to care for their patients, some losing their own lives; the nurse risking her life during an intense hurricane to save ICU babies; the gentleman in Las Vegas who gave up his life to shield a stranger from sniper fire; the person who shows up every week at the rescue mission, year after year, to fix and serve meals; and the families who take in dying children who have no family--and these are only a few examples. I’m sure every one of you has been blessed by a Heart-Driven person.
How different our world would be if it was dominated by people of Heart, and not the heartless. But, what does it really mean to “have Heart?”
Obviously, we are not talking about an organ which pumps blood throughout our bodies to keep us alive. However, this image does, in fact, make for a great metaphor. The core of our physical existence is a healthy heart – the core, or essence of our soul, character or persona is the type of “Heart” we possess. Physical heart-failure produces illness or death. Emotional “Heart” failure or indifference, makes one emotionally ill, even unattractive or repulsive; a type of living-death.
The “Heart” of an individual is the essence of that person, it is what drives them, motivates them, and creates their social identity. If one’s heart is filled with joy, they will be seen as joyful; if there heart is bitter so too will be their identity. A compassionate heart produces compassionate deeds. A forgiving heart produces mercy. A generous heart gives in abundance; and a happy heart makes others happy. A loving, caring and kind heart is a sweet aroma to those who encounter it. But, a greedy, selfish, ambitious heart only produces misery to themselves and others! As Washington Irving is quoted as saying, “A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.”
I am incredibly fortunate to work in a Heart-driven industry, and most especially, a Heart-driven organization – the Family Care Network. I come to work every day surrounded by people with very “healthy-Hearts!” The compassion, love, joy, energy, mercy, creativity and care they manifest is so powerful it overwhelms the downside of life which comes with working with traumatized, damaged individuals. This outcome of being heart-driven is how society should be, and could be if we made it a cultural value!
I am often saddened by the indifference that has so entangled itself within our culture. Understanding our history, it was not that long ago when compassion, kindness, sympathy, graciousness, deference, generosity and mercy were virtues embraced, demonstrated and expected of everyone. Oh sure, we didn’t live in a utopia, but these characteristics were normative. When tragedy struck a community, the community responded to take care of its own. How heartening it has been to see the resurgence of such Heart-driven activity in response to the series of natural disasters we have experienced over the past year. For my friend Ralph, such acts were his way of life!
On the other hand, acts of kindness, generosity, et cetera, are more the exception than the rule these days. It seems that people have become so self-centered, greedy and hardhearted that our social norms have been seriously tainted as well as our conduct, political processes and even our “Faith” community. America now ranks as having one of the highest rates of homelessness, child poverty, infant mortality, malnourishment and food instability in the world. This reality is inexcusable and unconscionable; most importantly – it can be fixed!
The Heart of the Matter is simple – it is incumbent upon each of us to be like Ralph; always looking for an opportunity to help someone, and to show acts of kindness, generosity, compassion, love, forgiveness, mercy and sympathy. It begins when each of us has a willing-Heart, a positive attitude, a desire to help others and a desire to make a better, healthier community for everyone! “Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”