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Chapter One ExtraordinaryPossibilities andthe Greatnessof the Heart
We begin with stories of great triumphs and revelations, not because they are impossible but because they are possible. They convey the power of love, faith, and courage. They speak of the capacity that deep compassion and integrity have to touch the hearts of others and to transform the world. If we read these stories wisely, we will not try to create saints or ideals from their message but will try to discover the same faith, wisdom, and courage within our own hearts.
We would do ourselves a great disservice to use the wisdom and example in these stories as a measure to judge our own imperfections and failings. Rather, these stories can inspire us to see beyond our frailties and doubts, to appreciate the strength and love that lie within us. Each one of us will be called upon to respond to hardship, sorrow, and loss. Each one of us will be profoundly touched by the pain and conflict that is part of the human experience. Our capacity to respond with grace and courage is the truth that is expressed in these stories.
There is a place within each of us that is the source of fearlessness, compassion, and integrity. It is this place that inspires us to reach out a hand of comfort to a friend in need, to intervene to prevent the infliction of pain upon another. It is this place that grieves at the pain in our world and rejoices in the happiness and love that is found. When we are vitally connected to our own hearts, we know that all living beings wish to be free from pain and to live in peace and freedom.
It is not lust a saint who can forgive, not onlyJesus or Buddha who can make great sacrifice. Compassion and love do not need grand gestures and dramatic expression. Our opportunities for love, forgiveness, and reverence are manifold. Each time we respond with love we create a world of peace and integrity. Every response is worthy, significant, each makes a difference.
The greatness of our hearts lies in not demanding proof that our responses of care and love make a difference. Our faith in love itself sustains us, the richness of our caring nurtures us. In not asking for confirmation, approval, or reward we are free to live simply in the spirit of reverence and love.
The stories in this chapter speak of this love and faith. They invite us to look anew at our own lives. What in our lives now could be healed by forgiveness? What discord and division exists that could be reconciled by patience and love? What conflicts could be ended by tolerance and compassion? What opportunities do we have to truly make a difference?
It happened just a few years ago to two young children in a family from Illinois. The eight-year-old daughter became ill and was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disease. A search went out to find a donor of blood compatible with her own. As she weakened, they looked and no donor could be found. Then it was discovered that her six-year-old brother shared her rare blood type. The mother and their minister and doctor sat down with the boy to ask if he would be willing to donate his blood to save the life of his sister.
Much to their surprise he did not answer right away. He wanted some time to think about it. Six year Olds can be quite thoughtful at times. After a few days he went to his mother and said, "Yes, I'll do it."
The following day the doctor brought both children to his clinic and placed them on cots next to each other. He wanted them to see how one was helping the other. First he drew a half pint of blood from the young boy's arm. Then he moved it over to his sister's cot and inserted the needle so her brother could see the effect. In a few minutes color began to pour back into her cheeks.
Then the boy motioned for the doctor to come over. He wanted to ask a question, very quietly.
"Will I start to die right away?" he asked.
You see, when he had been asked to donate his blood to save the life of his sister, his six-year-old mind understood the process literally. That's why he needed a few days to think about it.
And then he simply gave what is in the heart of every human being to give when we are truly connected.