I am going to apologise already for the long post...
I do an activity in kids group surrounding this story -
One day a young man was standing in the middle of the town proclaiming
that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd
gathered and they all admired his heart for it was perfect. There was
not a mark or a flaw in it. Yes, they all agreed it truly was the most
beautiful heart they had ever seen. The young man was very proud and
boasted more loudly about his beautiful heart.
Suddenly, an old man appeared at the front of the crowd and said "Why
your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine." The crowd and the young
man looked at the old man's heart. It was beating strongly, but full of
scars, it had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put
in, but they didn't fit quite right and there were several jagged edges.
In fact, in some places there were deep gouges where whole pieces were
The people stared - how can he say his heart is more beautiful, they
thought? The young man looked at the old man's heart and saw its state
and laughed. "You must be joking," he said. "Compare your heart with
mine, mine is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears."
"Yes," said the old man, "Yours is perfect looking but I would never
trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have
given my love - I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them, and
often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty
place in my heart, but because the pieces aren't exact, I have some
rough edges, which I cherish, because they remind me of the love we
shared. Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away, and the other
person hasn't returned a piece of his heart to me. These are the empty
gouges -- giving love is taking a chance.
Although these gouges are painful, they stay open, reminding me of the
love I have for these people too, and I hope someday they may return and
fill the space I have waiting. So now do you see what true beauty is?"
The young man stood silently with tears running down his cheeks. He
walked up to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful
heart, and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man with
trembling hands. The old man took his offering, placed it in his heart
and then took a piece from his old scarred heart and placed it in the
wound in the young man's heart. It fit, but not perfectly, as there were
some jagged edges. The young man looked at his heart, not perfect
anymore but more beautiful than ever, since love from the old man's
heart flowed into his. They embraced and walked away side by side.
I have the kids each make a heart out of play-doh and then we go around the group taking a piece of our hearts and giving it to one another either giving a compliment to the person or saying thank you for something they have done. It is one of the hardest groups I do not to cry. Hearing things like "thank you for taking the hits so I didn't have to" are always going to break my heart.
Last night's kids group broke my heart even more than usual. Obviously I am sworn to confidentiality but let me just say this, one angry teenage boy was given up on and shipped off, pedophiles have a their own section in hell and I always wondered what I would do when I came face to face with someone that I knew at the Safe House. I can tell you now from experience that it took my breath away. I cried the whole way home and again this morning while filling out my progress reports for the kiddos.
Thanks to my amazing daughter though, my heart began to heal when I got home. Her newest trick is to grab your arm while you are trying to change her diaper, pull it in real close to her face, snuggle it for a second and then kiss it. Literally it warms my heart to think about it.