i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) i am never without it (anywhere i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling) . . .
– e.e. cummings
I am large. I contain multitudes.
– Walt Whitman
We carry those we love in our hearts. Family members. Friends. Whether they are with us physically or not, they always have a place of residence within us; a place where they are tucked away and kept safe and sound. And we can find them at a moment’s notice. All we need to do is look in our hearts and we will find them there. If we look to our hearts we will see those who live under our roofs. And we will see those who live in distant cities. Those who live in distant lands. We will even those who have transitioned from this world. Some of these people may be deeply known to us. Others we may never have never met, but whose legacy of love we feel deeply.
If I look into my own heart I will very clearly see my husband and my children – the people who share my physical home. But there are also my relatives who live far away – my brothers, my sisters-in-law, my mother in law, my cousins and my aunts and uncles. And just next to them are my parents, of blessed memory. In my heart I feel both their tender touches and their caring admonishments. And there too are my ancestors whom I’ve never met: I look in my heart and I am able to see my great, great grandparents sitting down for their Sabbath dinner, laying their hands on their children’s heads to bless them – and I feel that they are blessing me as well.
If I look deeper, I will see others, too. There is the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. praying for the strength to lead this country in the direction of justice. And there is Mother Teresa, toiling to acknowledge the humanity of those that society has forgotten. There is Annie Sullivan, insisting that a child who has spent her life without sight or hearing is capable of the deepest human expression and who will not rest until her student finds a way to express her soul. There is Anne Frank believing, even in the midst of suffering, that people are truly good at heart, though her experience would show her the contrary.
There are the people whose live I hear about in the morning news on the radio: those struggling for freedom, those struggling to find safety, those struggling to be fed, those who work for cures, for knowledge, for wisdom, for justice.
My heart is frequently visited by people whom I consider to be enemies. And while they dwell there, I pray that I might even watch them transform from people who I detest and fear to people I can feel compassion for. My heart needs to be especially strong for them.
My heart contains multitudes. And so I need to care for my heart.
My heart is a home for humanity. So I must be sure that it is strong. But I must also be sure that it is comfortable. There must be space to offer joy. To offer compassion. There must be place in it to laugh and to dance. I must be sure to fill it with treasures. There must be food for sustenance. And there must be room for rest.
I must learn to care for my heart — not simply for my own good — but because I cannot allow the walls to crumble around so many honored and deserving guests.
My heart is a home for humanity. A shelter for countless beings.
Let me be a good host.