Relationships

Category Archives: Relationships

The Velveteen Rabbit

Marjorie William’s children’s story book, The Velveteen Rabbit tells the story of a stuffed toy rabbit given to a young boy as a Christmas present. The velveteen rabbit lives in the nursery with all the other toys, waiting for the day when the boy will choose him as  a playmate.

In time, the shy Rabbit befriends the tattered Skin Horse, the wisest resident of the nursery, who reveals the goal of all nursery toys: to be made “real” through the love of a human. One night we get to overhear their conversation..

‘What is REAL?’ asked the Rabbit one day, as they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, just before Nana came in to tidy up the room. ‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’

‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off; and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.’

Source: Quote from Marjorie Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit.

The Fall of Vulcan

Ancient Greek mythology tells the sad tale of Vulcan, the son of the supreme gods Jupiter and Juno. Vulcan was particularly attached to his mother, the more so as Jupiter’s philandering and abusive ways brought her such pain. Vulcan lavished affection on Juno and sought to comfort her when she suffered Jupiter’s neglect.

One day, after Juno had unleashed a fit of jealousy, Jupiter punished her by hanging her out of heaven, held by a golden chain. Vulcan, distressed by his mother’s plight, grabbed a hold of the chain, and pulling with all his might, dragged Juno back into heaven and was about to set her free, when Jupiter returned. Infuriated that his son had interfered in what he saw as an issue between husband and wife, Jupiter hurled Vulcan out of heaven.

The space between haven and earth was so great that Vulcan’s fall lasted a whole day and night. Hitting the earth he injured one of his legs, leaving him lame and deformed for the rest of his life.

But it was not the fall that hurt Vulcan as much as his mother’s response. Though he had risked everything to rescue his mother she never made the slightest effort to discover whether the had reached earth safely. Wounded by her indifference and ingratitude, Vulcan vowed he would never return to Olympus and withdrew into the solitude of Mount Aetna.

The myth highlights what is a very human reality, the wounds that can come not from what people do to us, but what people don’t do. To feel unappreciated and unvalued can create deep emotional wounds, and generally, they cut deeper the closer we are to the person who doesn’t value us. One of the great relational disciplines then is to learn to express gratitude for the goodness and kindness of others, to appreciate their actions and let them know we appreciate them. In the mythology of Olympus Vulcan’s entire future could have been shaped differently if only his mother had shown some gratitude.

Source: Scott Higgins. Mythical information found in Guerber, Myths of Greece and Rome

Thanking Dad

Imagine this scene: a man of around 35 has been to a men’s movement weekend. While away he realises that he’s never told his father he loves him, so he decides when he gets home he’ll do it. He gets home, picks up the phone and calls home. Dad answers the phone.

“Hi Dad, it’s me.”

“Oh, um, hi son! I’ll go get your mother…”

“No don’t get mum. It’s you I want to talk to.”

There’s a pause then, “Why? Do you need money.”

“No, dad. It’s just I’ve been remembering a lot about you, Dad, and the things you did for me, working all those years to put me through college, supporting us. My life is going well now and it’s because of what you did you get me started. I just thought about it and realised I’d never really said ‘Thanks…’”

Silence on the other end of the phone. The son continues

“I want to tell you thanks, and that I love you.”

“Son, you been drinking?…”

Source: Reported in Stephen Biddulph, Manhood. Originally told by Robert Bly.

Information Please

A man tells the story about a special friend he made while just a boy. When quite young, Paul’s father had one of the first telephones in their neighbourhood. Paul was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when his mother talked to it.

Then Paul discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person – her name was “Information, Please” and there was nothing she did not know.

“Information, Please” could supply anybody’s number and the correct time. Paul’s first personal experience with this genie-in the-bottle came one day while his mother was visiting a neighbour. Amusing himself at the tool bench in the basement, Paul hacked his finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible, but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. He walked around the house sucking his throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway.

The telephone!

Quickly, Paul ran for the foot stool in the parlour and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, he unhooked the receiver in the parlour and held it to his ear. “Information, Please,” he said into the mouthpiece just above his head.

A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into Paul’s ear.

“Information.”

“I hurt my finger,” Paul wailed into the phone.

“Isn’t your mother home?” came the question.

“Nobody’s home but me” Paul blubbered.

“Are you bleeding?” the voice asked.

“No,” he replied. “I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.”

“Can you open your icebox?” she asked. He said he could. “Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger,” said the voice.

After that, Paul called “Information, Please” for everything. He asked her for help with his geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped him with his maths. She told Paul that his pet chipmunk, which he had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts. Then, there was the time Petey, the pet canary died. Paul called and told her the sad story.

She listened, then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child, but Paul was inconsolable. He asked her, “Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?”

She must have sensed his deep concern, for she said quietly, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow he felt better. .

When Paul was nine years old, his family moved across the country to Boston. Paul missed his friend very much. “Information, Please” belonged in that old wooden box back home, and he somehow never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall.

As he grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left him. Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity Paul would recall the serene sense of security he had then. He appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on his way west to college, Paul’s plane put down in Seattle. He had about half an hour or so between planes. He spent 15 minutes on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what he was doing, Paul dialled his hometown operator and said, “Information, Please.”

Miraculously, he heard the small, clear voice he knew so well, “Information.”

He hadn’t planned this but he heard myself saying, “Could you please tell me how to spell fix?”

There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, “I guess your finger must have healed by now.” Paul laughed. “So it’s really still you,” he said. “I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time.”

“I wonder,” she said, “if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls.” Paul told her how often he had thought of her over the years and asked if he could call her again when he came back to visit his sister.

“Please do,” she said. “Just ask for Sally.”

Three months later Paul was back in Seattle. A different voice answered, “Information.” He asked for Sally. “Are you a friend?” She asked.

“Yes, a very old friend,” Paul answered.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” she said. “Sally has been working part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.”

Before he could hang up she said, “Wait a minute. Is this Paul?”

“Yes,” Paul replied.

“Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you.” The note said, “Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.”

 

Application: Listening – Information Please gave Paul one of the most precious yet simple gifts a person can give, the gift of listening.

Application: Hope, Death, Heaven. “There are other world’s to sing in”. Beyond death lies the hope of a new life.

Application: Community, Friendship. This story reminds us that we need each other. Information Please and Paul both had their lives enriched in powerful yet simple ways by the gift of their friendship with one another.

Application: Children. We adults often make the mistake of dismissing the concerns of small children. Yet coping with the death of a budgie or telling someone that you’ve hurt your finger are the things that are important to a small child. Sally reminds us of the importance of being attentive to the needs of children, not expecting them to function as mini adults but nurturing their journey as children.

 

Source: Unknown.

The Gift of Us

Marjorie Tallcott was married and had one child during the Great Depression. The family managed to scrape their way through, but as Christmas approached one year Marjorie and her husband were disappointed that they would not be able to buy any presents. A week before Christmas they explained to their six year old son, Pete, that there would be no store-bought presents this Christmas. “But I’ll tell you what we can do” said Pete’s father, “we can make pictures of the presents we’d like to give to each other.”

That was a busy week. Marjorie and her husband set to work. Christmas Day arrived and the family rose to find their skimpy little tree made magnificent by the picture presents they had adorned it with. There was luxury beyond imagination in those pictures- a black limousine and red speedboat for Dad, a diamond bracelet and fur coat for mum, a camping tent and a swimming pool for Pete.

Then Pete pulled out his present, a crayon drawing of a man, a woman and a child with their arms around each other laughing. Under the picture was just one word: “US”.

Years later Marjorie writes that it was the richest, most satisfying Christmas they ever had.

It took a present-less Christmas to remind Marjorie and her family that the greatest gift we can ever offer is ourselves, our presence. This too is the great gift that Christ offers us, not only at Christmas but throughout the year – himself. If he was to draw a gift perhaps it would be just like Pete’s: three people with their arms around each other laughing – human community with Christ at the centre.

Source: Reported in Illustrations Unlimited

The Gift of Presence

It was the late 1960’s. Twenty two year old King Duncan was a student pastor, serving two small churches in northern Maryland, USA.

One of his parishioners Mrs. Maude Stambaugh, the oldest living member of one of the churches. Frail and ill, Mrs Stambaugh spent her final years being cared for by her daughter in her daughter’s home, unable to leave her room except for trips to the hospital twice a month to receive the blood transfusions that kept her alive.

When he first went to see her King found the experience quite difficult. Mrs Stambaugh had Parkinson’s disease at an advanced state. Her hearing was poor, meaning he had to shout into her ear to be heard, and she was close to being blind.

“What do I do now?” he thought to himself as Mrs Stambaugh’s daughter excused herself from the room. Seminary had not prepared him for this. He sat beside the bed, intimidated and uncomfortable, before cupping his hands and shouting into Mrs Stambaugh’s ears “How are you doing today?”

Mrs. Stambaugh responded with a pleasant expression and mumbled something which he could not quite understand. King Duncan knew he had to do something for this woman, but he had no idea what. For 15 minutes he sat there in silence, til finally he opened the New Testament and began to read some verses aloud. Though he read loudly, he was not sure if Mrs Stambaugh heard. He finished with a prayer. But would he whisper it or shout it into her ear? He decided he would simply speak in a very loud voice. So King prayed and left the room, cupping his hands around her ear one last time before exiting the room. “Good to see you, Mrs. Stambaugh,” he shouted.

Of course, that was a lie. He had found the whole experiencing discouraging, disheartening and very awkward. He would prefer to do anything than return. But return he did, for he was Mrs Stambaugh’s pastor. Every month or so King visited Mrs Stambaugh, each time shouting in her ear to greet her, then sitting in tortured silence for 15 minutes, before reading from the bible, then praying.

Eighteen months after his first visit, Mrs. Stambaugh died. After the funeral King was walking toward his car when Mrs Stambaugh’s daughter came hurrying up to him. “Pastor Duncan, I have something for you. This was the last thing Mother wrote before she died,” her daughter said with warmth. “We thought you would want to see it.” She handed him a note. It took some time to decipher the handwriting. This is what Mrs. Stambaugh had written, “Please tell my young pastor how much his visits meant to me.”

King Duncan learned what we all must, that our presence is one of the greatest gifts we can offer. Though we may feel awkward, useless and discouraged, our presence to another human being in their hours of darkness is a precious gift.

Source: Reported by King Duncan, Seven Worlds Newsletter, 2002

Ask Him About His Childhood

“You have no idea what this has meant to me. All these years I never thought you were even interested in what I had to say,” the old man told them.
It’s my get away. You heard me mention it before. My favorite restaurant for a good old clog your heart breakfast of eggs, home fries, and bacon. Oh yes. Whole wheat toast to make it healthy.

I find the most incredible people and stories in restaurants. Think about it. It’s your family dinner table removed from your kitchen and placed in a public area. Like home, but better. Somebody else is cooking and doing the dishes.

So scattered all around me are families having dinner, friends catching up with the latest news, business meetings and people like me just there to relax. Oh, of course. Great conversation.

Except in the booth across from me. Silence.

When I first sat down there two men sitting together quietly. One man appeared to be in his thirties. He was dressed in some old work clothes and still wearing his baseball cap. The other man I would guess was about 80. He had the most incredible face. The lines and creases gave him character. His white hair was messy from wearing a stocking cap he held on top of the table. He wore one of those red plaid shirt jackets that you might see on a construction worker. Heavy enough to keep you warm while you’re moving about, but not too bulky to limit your movement.

But he didn’t look like he was going any where. Neither was this conversation.

“Boy, I really worked up a hunger today, Pop. All that shoveling and sweeping the snow will do that,” the younger man said.

“Yeah, this is somethin’,” replied the old man.

Silence followed for the longest time.

Suddenly I heard the young man say, “Here they come,” as he pointed toward the doorway.

He almost looked relieved. Somebody who would join in and help get this conversation going.

It appeared to me that the two people who joined them were a mother and teenage grandchild. The woman sat next to the younger man and Pop stood up to let the grandchild slide in place.

“Hello, Dad. Good to see you!” she said as she sat down.

“Yep!” the old man replied.

Silence. Even longer gaps than before.

“I feel real good,” the old man said proudly.

“Oh, you look good Dad,” the younger man said. Then one by one the others agreed.

Silence.

The waitress approached and took their breakfast orders.

Grandpa excused himself. “Gotta go to the bathroom. It happens a lot when you’re old,” he said.

As soon as he was out of sight, the younger man said, “God, I don’t know what to say to him. We just sit here looking around. He never talks.”

“I know what you mean. God what do you say?” the woman added.

“He’s old. What do you talk about with an old man?” the kid joined in.

Oh, no. Here I go. I can’t just sit here and listen to this. I’m going to say something, swallow hard and wait to see if they tell me it’s none of my business.

“Ask him about his childhood,” I said as I continued eating.

“What? Pardon me? Were you talking to us, sir?” the woman asked.

“Yes. It’s really not my business, I know. But do you realize what he has to offer you? Can you even begin to understand what this man has seen in his lifetime? He most likely has answers to problems you haven’t even discovered as problems in your life. He’s a gold mine!” I said.

Silence again.

“Look, talk to him about his childhood. Ask him what the snows were like back then. He’ll have a million stories to share. He’s not talking because no one is asking,” I told them.

Just then he came walking around the corner.

“Oh, boy. I feel much better now. You know I haven’t been goin’ good in a while,” the old man told them.

They all turned and looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders. Okay. So old people also talk about the facts of life. And going or not going is a major thing when you’re old. You take the good with the bad.

After a long silence the young girl said, “Paw Paw. When you were a kid were the snows this bad?”

“Gees, honey. This is nothing like the snows I had when I was a kid. Did I ever tell you about the snow storm that covered my house?” he asked.

“No, Pop. I don’t think I ever heard that one myself,” said the younger man.

Now for the next twenty minutes the old man was in his glory. At one point he even stood up to show them how high the one snow drift was. Throughout the entire meal everyone chimed in with more questions. They laughed and he lit up like he was on stage and the play he was acting in was his life story.

Just as I was about to leave I heard the old man say, “You have no idea what this has meant to me. All these years I never thought you were even interested in what I had to say.”

“Oh….. well, I guess we just didn’t think you wanted to talk,” the woman said.

“Well nobody bothered to ask me anything. I just figured I was boring or somethin. It’s been a tough life you know. Ever since Ma Ma died I really had nothing to say.” He paused for a moment. I could see him nervously wringing his rough life worn hands together.

“You see, her and I were like a song. I made the music and she…she was the words,” he said.

Like tough guys of his time are supposed to do, he held back any visible emotion, sniffled and wiping his eye he said, “No sense talkin’ if you ain’t got the words.”

As I turned to walk away I looked across the table. I saw the young girl wave and smile at me as she put her arm around Paw Paw’s shoulders.

She didn’t have to say a word.

Source: Bob Perks © 2001. Used with permission

Contact

Contact, starring Jodie Foster, tells the story of astronomer Ellie Arroway’s search for extraterrestrial life. It is more however than a movie about aliens. It raises profound questions about life, faith and science.

Ellie’s parents both died while she way very young, and she is left with a keen sense of aloneness and a drive to discover some sense of meaning and purpose to life and existence. Her chosen path to truth is science. She refuses to accept anything on the basis of faith. Only that which can be scientifically demonstrated can be intellectually embraced.

The other central character in the movie is Palmer Joss, a spiritual adviser to the president. Ellie and Joss find themselves attracted to each other, but their relationship forces them both to explore the place of faith and reason in their lives. Ellie challenges Joss to proven that God exists. Ockham’s razor demands that the simplest explanation is the best. On this basis she asks “So what’s more likely? That a mysterious, all-powerful God created the universe, and then decided not to leave a single evidence of his existence? Or that He simply doesn’t exist at all, and that we created Him, so that we wouldn’t have to feel so small and lonely?”

Joss responds by asking Ellie if she loved her father. She affirms that she loved him deeply. Joss then turns Ellie’s demand back on her. “Prove it”. Joss explains that although he may not be able to scientifically prove God’s existence, he once had a deeply moving experience where he felt overwhelmed by the presence of God. It’s on this basis that he believes. Ellie however can’t accept this. If it cannot be proven it cannot be true.

Then one day, as Ellie is listening for signals from outer-space contact is made. Aliens from deep in space have returned radio signals to earth and then send details for the construction of what seems to be a time machine. After one person has died when the first machine explodes, Ellie is chosen to travel in the second. When Joss asks her whether she is willing to die for this she replies: “For as long as I can remember, I’ve been searching for something, some reason why we’re here. What are we doing here? Who are we? If this is a chance to find out even just a little part of that answer… I don’t know, I think it’s worth a human life. Don’t you?”

So Ellie finds herself sitting in a small metallic sphere suspended from massive circular arms. The arms start rotating furiously, reaching a point where the sphere is dropped. This time the machine doesn’t explode, the sphere simply falls to earth. Nothing has happened…

Or at least that’s how it appears to inside observers. Ellie’s experience within the capsule is extraordinary. She finds herself hurtling down a “wormhole”, a doorway through space, until she emerges on a beautiful beach. A figure walks across the sand toward her. It’s her father…in fact an alien life form coming to her in the guise of her father so that she will feel comfortable. Finally Ellie has overcome her sense of cosmic aloneness, perhaps found some of the answers she is looking for. In some poignant lines the alien says: “You’re an interesting species, an interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.”

After 18 hours Ellie has to return. When she does she finds herself confronted by the same skepticism towards her experience that she showed to Joss when he spoke of his experience of God. From the viewpoint of everyone observing from outside the capsule nothing happened. Surely Ockham’s razor demands the simplest explanation – that nothing did happen other than Ellie being fooled? Surely they can’t be expected to accept Ellie’s story on the basis of nothing but faith? Ellie’s confronted with a terrible dilemma. Can she now embrace her experience on the basis of nothing but faith? It seems her answer is “yes”. She says “I had an experience I can’t prove, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real. I was part of something wonderful, something that changed me forever; a vision of the universe that tells us undeniably how tiny, and insignificant, and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not, that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe, and humility, and the hope, but… that continues to be my wish.”

 

Application: Science and religion, truth, God’s existence, evidence for God, apologetics. The movie suggests that faith and science are not opposed, as Ellie thinks, but can complement each other as Joss believes. Truth can be accessed not only through scientific experiment but also through experience. Indeed, the film suggests that the greatest truths – love, meaning, purpose, etc – are outside the ability of science.

Application: Meaning of Life. Ellie’s closing words represent a wonderful description of the Christian perspective on life. “I had an experience I can’t prove, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real. I was part of something wonderful, something that changed me forever; a vision of the universe that tells us undeniably how tiny, and insignificant, and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not, that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe, and humility, and the hope, but… that continues to be my wish.”

Application: Relationships, Loneliness, God’s presence. The alien in the movie provides a poignant expression of our desperate need for others (and God), when he says of humans, “You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.”

Collective Wisdom

I want to give you a scenario. You’re 22 years old – it’s already attractive to many of you isn’t it? You do well at school and head off to Uni. You work hard and do so well that even before you finish your uni course you land a plum job in a merchant bank. You work hard in your new job and life is looking pretty good. One day your boss calls you into the office and greets you with the words, “We’ve decided to terminate your employment. Your work isn’t good enough, you’re a bit too different and you don’t fit in with the others.”

That’s what happened to a young Australian by the name of Brett Kelly. Brett’s world came tumbling in on him. This was the first time in his life anything had gone really wrong. He lost his confidence in himself, lost all sense of purpose and direction, and slipped into a routine of getting up late, watching the Midday show and wasting the afternoon.

Then one day Kerrie Ann Kennerly turned Brett’s life around. Sitting there day after day watching the Midday show Brett noticed Kerrie Ann’s passion for her job, the way she so obviously enjoyed what she was doing, and gained so much energy from it. “That’s what I want” he said to himself – “that type of energy, that type of passion.” But how? Where could he find it? How could he learn to have that type of success?

He had no answers but he figured people who were successful in their chosen career probably did. So he made up a list of prominent people he admired – from rock stars like Peter Garrett, to political leaders like Bob Hawke and Jeff Kennett, to entertainers like HG Nelson. The idea was to interview them, discover their secrets, then publish the interviews in a book. When he got through all his interviews Brett was startled at what he learned about success. Brett had always thought that success in work and life would come from skill and talent and so he had chased qualifications, skills, and experience. What he found was that the one thing all the people he interviewed shared was the ability to build high quality relationships.

You want to know the title of his book? Collective Wisdom.

All You Are is an Interruption

In 2001 Bob Reccord was the President of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. During an address to the New Orleans Baptist Seminary he told of how his commitment to ministry almost cost him his marriage. Bob was 29 years old at the time and he and his wife Cheryl had a four year old son and a newborn. Bob was also a “bi-vocational” pastor, working as a businessman and as National Director of Training for Evangelism Explosion. His business and pastoral work had him away from home for 33 weeks of the year.

Returning home from a trip he one day came in the door, put down his suitcase, and said excitedly to his wife, “Want to hear what God’s done?”

Cheryl, looked at him and said, “No,” then began to cry.

“You used to be an asset to this family” she said. “All you are now is an interruption to this family.” Cheryl went on to say that if things didn’t change, she and the children would leave him.

That episode shocked Bob Reccord to rethink his life and make some changes. To the students at New Orleans Baptist Seminary he made the very important point that it is easy for those with strong commitments to ministry to become distracted from what’s important – such as their marriages and families – not by evil things but by good things.

 

Source: Reported at BPNews.com, November 21, 2001

A Perfect Heart

A young man once stood on a street corner, opened his coat, and cried, “Look at my heart, look at my perfect, perfect heart.” A crowd soon gathered, impressed by his perfect heart. They stood in awe of a heart without blemish, perfect and complete in every way.

Soon an old man walked by and paused to see what the commotion was all about. When he heard the young man proudly crying “Look at my perfect heart” the old man pushed his way to the front to get a closer look. And when he saw the young man’s heart he scolded him. “Son, that’s not a perfect heart. If you want to see a perfect heart you need to see mine.” With that the old man opened his coat to reveal and old, knotted and ugly heart. It was full of bumps and holes, and pieces of it had broken off here and there.

The crowd began to laugh, but the old man raised his hand and began to speak. “See this bump” he said, “That’s when I me my first love. Oh, how the sun shone that day, how bright the colours of the universe were, how sweet the swinging of the birds in the trees. What a wonderful moment it was…Ah, but see this hole, that’s when my first love and I broke up. How it pained me, and pains me still. But the hole once ran much deeper. The years have managed to fill it in a lot…See this bump, that’s when I me the woman who became my life partner. Oh, what a wonderful life we had – year after year of shared companionship, of laughter, tears and joy. This scratch here is when we had a blazing row that threatened to end our marriage – but we made up and moved on…Over here, this place where a piece of my heart has been broken off, this is when she passed away. Oh the ache – yes it still aches even today, for she took a part of my heart to the grave with her, but I trust she will return it to me someday…Ah, but here’s another great bump. This was when we began our family. You’ll notice the hole beside it. That’s when we learned we could not bear our own children. How hard it was to accept, how painful to live with. But the bump is when we got our adopted daughter – our very own beautiful little girl to raise as our own. And yes, there are scratches and indentations surrounding the bump – the times we fought and yelled. But always we learned to forgive, and so this bump grows ever bigger.”

The old man went on to describe many other bumps and holes and scratches on his heart, and when he finished the crowd was silent. “You see son” he aid, turning to the young man with the unblemished heart, “yours is not a perfect heart, for it has not lived, it has not been touched with joy and tears and laughter and love and pain and anguish and hardship and celebration. Only when you are an old man like me will you be able to look upon a gnarled and battered heart and be able to say, ‘yes, now that is a perfect heart.'”

 

Source: original story by Rev. Garry Izzard, rewritten and used with permission.