Recently at a multigenerational event at a Unitarian Universalist congregation, everyone was encouraged to create a heart. They were given some construction paper and some glue and some markers to design their heart. Emily worked diligently to create the most perfect, beautiful heart she could. It even had glitter in the shape of diamonds all around the outside.
As she was helping to clean up, she noticed the heart of one woman who was around the same age as her grandmother sitting at a nearby table. It was a mish-mash mess of odd colors and had pieces which were ripped and torn glued haphazardly upon it. Parts of it were wrinkled and crinkled and there was even a little hole in it!
Thinking there was something wrong, Emily offered to help the woman fix her heart. But the woman merely smiled and explained that there was nothing wrong with her heart; it merely revealed all the things which had happened to her in her life. She said there were happy times here: the beautiful colors and designs represented when she first met her husband, their wedding and the birth of each of their three children. There were other beautiful parts, too, which stood for watching her children taking their first steps on their own, riding a bike for the first time and graduating from college.
"But what about all the rips and tears and wrinkles?" Emily asked. "Why are they there?"
These were for the sad times in her life, the woman explained. The time her best friend was stricken with measles, the time someone lied or did something to hurt her feelings and the hole was left when her husband died. "In fact, every time a person comes into my life that I care about," she explained, "they take a piece of my heart with them."
This was distressing to Emily, thinking of the woman having to give part of her heart away to others. "But what happens if you give it all away?" she asked. "You'll be left with nothing."
"No, I won't," the woman responded with a smile. "Because you see, they give me a piece of theirs as well."
Emily looked down at her beautiful, perfect heart with the glitter and the designs she worked so hard to make. Then she looked again at the woman's mish-mashed heart with the jagged colors, rips and wrinkles. Without hesitation, Emily ripped a piece off of her perfect heart and handed it to the woman.
"Thank you," the woman said as she placed it with her mish-mash heart and tore off a piece to hand to Emily.