The Latin word for heart is “cor.” The word courage originally meant to be able to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart, and with feeling. We each have a story. From where we were born and grew up, to what led us to where we are today. Everyone we pass on the street, too, has a story. We may just never know what it is.
So I realize now that it’s not what we look like, it’s not what we do for a living, the color of our skin… but our ability to tell the story of who we are, openly, with nothing to hold back, that separates us from each other. It’s our story. It’s our heart.
I talk to a lot of people in my travels, some naturally more talkative than others. Some guarded and quiet. People tell me I am easy to talk to. They ask me what I do to make it easy. I always say I don’t know… I just invite others to talk to me I guess. But I get it now… My first job in my profession is to build trust. As I do that, I realize that most of the time, I share my own story with my clients. I relate in any way that I can to show my human side too. I share my heart.
One of the stories I use often in my work with softball teams is a personal story of striking out looking in a big game. Being human is the easiest way to build trust. I have failed, I have fallen, I have been hurt and have hurt others. But one thing will always remain true. My heart tells my story. I know anyone can relate to that.
I was in the nursing home on Christmas visiting with my Mom. I always take time to watch, to listen and to try to share some conversation to a few of the regular talkers, those who clearly just like to be heard. There is one gentleman in particular that I often see. His name is Stewart. He is quiet. Doesn’t say much. But this night, he seemed to gravitate toward our table. We were feeding mom her supper and visiting with dad. Stewart wheeled himself over to me and looked at me. With a stern face, he said nothing. Just looked. We laughed and continued on…telling mom silly jokes or something corny my dad undoubtedly said. He was right next to me all of a sudden as I looked over. He said quietly, looking at me sternly, “It’s not funny.” I was caught off guard for a moment and then turned back to him. I smiled politely and just quietly replied “Awww, yeah it is. If we can’t laugh what good are we?” I looked back at my mom and continued to feed her the chicken corn soup left in her bowl. People were leaving for the night, clearing out. The caretakers were putting the food trays away and one by one, wheeling the residents to their rooms for the night. We carried on. Laughing and talking about the impending snow, then laughing some more.
I saw one of the younger men on his way to bed stuck at the door, the wheels of his chair hooked onto another chair and he couldn’t get unstuck. I got up quickly to go help him out the door. He thanked me after he was done with his little outburst… “Cracker, cracker, cracker,” he said in frustration. We managed to get him pointed in the right direction. Just then, walking back to my mom’s table, Stewart was in my path. He looked at me with his arms folded. He leaned over and in a quiet, dry, husky voice… like one that hasn’t been used in quite some time, he said “Do you think it will get better? Because it may not change you know. Does it get better? In here?” I looked closely, wondering what he meant by this. I saw his hand pointing toward his chest. I questioned quickly, did he mean in HERE? Like, the nursing home? In here, meaning the room where they eat, I mean I hear the food isn’t THAT bad, but maybe not to his liking… or was he really pointing to his heart…? In here, meaning inside. SO many questions, all in a matter of a second. I answered quietly. “Yes. Stewart, It gets better.” Not really sure what I was answering, but thinking it was the best option. He wheeled away as I wished him a Merry Christmas, and for the first time I saw a smile peek through his sternness as he rode off to bed.
I think about that a lot. My sisters and I have talked about it too. All of the people in that place… they all have a story. They all have heart. They live it every day. Some were doctors, some were teachers and business owners, and homemakers, and counselors. They all have a story.
We often talk about athletes having heart. We say those who play hard have it and those who loaf… well I guess they don’t. But the truth of the matter is, everyone has heart. It’s those that have the courage to show it and to live it fully in the face of others, those are the ones we celebrate. I have watched athletes come up short, but give all they have. Not afraid to share their story with the world. Courage of champions or something like that…Heart is a choice. It always is.
I have met a lot of Stewarts in my life. Quiet, don’t say much, but when it’s time, they remind us of their story. I think I have been Stewart on occasion. At times, I don’t think I have the right things to say or the right questions to ask.
“Does it get better?” I venture to say it does. We have a choice in that.
And I choose to let my heart lead the way. I choose to let my heart tell my story.
My heart will always separate me from others. As will yours.
As will Stewart’s.