A big heart

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It was an informal gathering of friends, their wives and children. They were most likely high school or college classmates enjoying a beautiful summer day in a park. A few were grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, most were doing what people do on such occasions: drinking out of big red cups, getting updates, sharing stories, remembering people and details they’d forgotten, sometimes for good reason.

The children seemed to be largely of the same age, suggesting their parents had all followed a similar path: graduation, marriage not long after, children not long after that. There were clearly a few more than the last time this group had gathered, some still in mother’s arms and strollers. For kids who may not have encountered each other before, or maybe just once or twice, they played and explored with amazing familiarity and contentment.

Older boys, and a couple determined younger sisters, were kicking soccer balls with one of the dads encouraging them. A few had brought scooters that they raced around the picnic area’s perimeter. Another dad and boy were playing catch. Some of the younger kids were hard at work decorating the many sidewalks with thick, colorful chalk. The canvass upon which they could express their creativity was vast and the buckets of chalk at their disposal were large enough, one would surmise, to last a lifetime.

They drew butterflies, smiling faces, and images of shining suns and wafting clouds, as if a mirror image of the sky overheard. There were houses and horses, or at least that’s how one of the young artists identified his masterpiece to his mom. The sidewalks filled up with names, stars, crosses and flowers.

One girl of maybe about four or five worked feverishly at her spot of the sidewalk. The image she created was almost as large as she was. She grabbed one piece of colored chalk after another, pushing them hard against the concrete sidewalk, pausing every few moments to consider her work and taking a different colored stick of chalk to make an enhancement. After considerable attention and effort, the young artist stepped back, examined her accomplishment for a moment and proclaimed, to no one in particular since everyone around her was preoccupied with their own creations: “Look at my heart. Isn’t it big!”

And she was right, it was a pretty big heart. Not perfectly proportioned, a few jagged edges where smooth loops might have looked better. But its immensity was not debatable.

We often speak of people having hard hearts, or generous hearts, or even large hearts. Not the kind we draw with stocky chalk on concrete, but what grows and develops within us. Not the internal organ that pumps blood, of course, but the spiritual disposition that guides our charity and compassion, our joy and sadness, our awareness and response. The heart drawn and guided, largely, by God’s grace and our willingness to cooperate with that grace. Maybe a heart of whom we hope someone might one day observe, isn’t it big!  TL

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