Life is all about heart

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Some people make an impression on you. I once met a woman, Julie, whom many were unable to understand. She was always thinking of others. She had little money but was always the first to respond in an emergency. Prestige and power held no interest for her. One day, someone asked her why she was so addicted to self-sacrifice. Julie answered, "Life is all about heart. Unless what you do amounts to something, there is no point in doing it."

I pondered what she meant and to whom that statement applied. What Julie said gave me a good reason to evaluate my life, what I did and why.

To begin with I strove to attain a college education and perform other vocations and works of which I could be proud. I needed to be more than just an ordinary person. My motives for wanting more education, skills and friends were so I would feel good about myself as well as the practicality of obtaining useful skills for life's work.

However, after I completed what I started (and believed was extremely important), I failed to feel the satisfaction I expected. After a lot of soul searching and questioning of what made a truly joyful and happy life, I looked around me.

I found I admired those mothers and fathers and other good people who thought about others more than about what they themselves accomplished. They were more concerned with people than achievements. Often those who had accomplished much materially, and were popular and powerful, were different from each other. Some were pompous and proud while others were humble yet content. The secret was that those who seemed most gratified placed others first. If their loved ones were taken care of and fulfilled, they absorbed their joy. What mattered was not that their business was profiting, or that their home was superior to most. The main value they placed on accumulating capital, having an attractive home and working late was the opportunity to give to those they loved.

A young teacher, Wayne, impressed me recently by a beautiful gesture he made toward one of his students. I watched him as he painstakingly repaired a pair of eye glasses one evening after school.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"One of my students is wearing this outdated pair of glasses to school. I know they must make glasses now with thinner lenses," Wayne said. Then he continued to look around the house for an extra glasses case for the student. "I'd like to buy him some new glasses," Wayne said.

"Wow, what concern," I thought. Wayne had a wife and two small children. His wife was out of town on a business trip at the time and Wayne had the full responsibility of the household for a few days. Yet he had made the effort to think of the welfare of a student.

That's what Julie was talking about when she said, "Life is all about heart. Unless what you do amounts to something, it's not worth doing."

My eyes were opened. I recalled many people who took fantastic care of their cherished ones. They, too, found time to reach out to others. People from all walks of life give of themselves for the betterment of the world. That's heart, I concluded.

Regardless of what you do unless it has some significance for humankind somewhere down the road, what's the point? Possessions and artificial expressions of caring can't provide warmth and love when you need it. Although an education, material goods and friends are necessary, what genuinely matters is the motive behind it all. You've got to determine your priorities by listening to your heart.

"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9)

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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