By George M. Graham Jr.
If you were asked to close your eyes and point to yourself, do you know where you are most likely to point? When asked to do this exercise, a large percentage of people point toward the center of their bodies - the heart.
Throughout history, writers, poets, and scholars have referred to the heart as the “seat” of man’s identity, his soul, his will, and have described it as the symbolic organ associated with love and emotion. The heart is found many times throughout the Bible. In Proverbs 15:13 it says, “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” Additionally, in Proverbs 23:7a you can read, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...”
In recent years, research has substantiated that the heart is much more than just an organ that pumps blood throughout the body. There is evidence to indicate the heart has intelligence, is involved with our feelings and emotions, and plays a role in memories. It appears it also has a part in helping our brain with the interpretation of the world around us. The heart is now being referred to as our second brain.
The heart is part of what is referred to as the enteric nervous system, which includes neurons that extend into our gut. These neurons are identical to neural cells in the brain. Through the connection of the enteric nervous system to the central nervous system, the heart is continuously communicating with the brain by way of neurological, biophysical, biochemical, and electromagnetic signals. In fact, evidence indicates the heart sends many more messages to the central nervous system and brain than it receives. And, it appears it can influence our perceptions, decision-making, health, and emotional well-being.
We have all heard expressions such as “follow your heart,” or “trust your heart,” or “go with your gut feelings.” These are all expressions that compel us to listen to that still small voice within us and to follow through with conviction.
Other expressions we often hear are “he has a great heart,” or “she has a lot of heart.” These expressions typically refer to people who manifest loving-kindness and compassion. Compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions. It is the embodiment of the Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Compassion means having a feeling of sympathy or a shared suffering for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate suffering or to show a special kindness. A quote from Leo Buscaglia describes the simplicity of compassion and the impact it can have on another, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mother Teresa was the epitome of living life with a heart of compassion. She gave of herself unselfishly and dedicated her life in the service of ministering to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying. Her heart of compassion is an example to all.
Although it is not every person’s purpose to be like Mother Teresa, each of us can develop a heart of compassion to the full potential of what we were called to be. The following story is a great example of being sensitive and aware to opportunities to utilize our heart of compassion.
This story is an excerpt from Steve Goodier’s newsletter—Life Support Systems. It is part of an article entitled “Good People” in the August 17, 2009, issue (http://www.LifeSupportSystem.com.)
A trucker relates that he was traveling through rural North Carolina on I-95 when a brown sedan merged onto the highway. It weaved back and forth between lanes, causing the driver of the truck to shift into a lower gear. At first he thought the driver was drunk, but when he came closer, the trucker saw an old man shaking uncontrollably behind the wheel. He noticed a Citizen’s Band aerial whipping to and fro as the car jerked between lanes, so he called on the radio: “You in the brown Chevy, if you can hear me, pull over. Pull off the road!”
Amazingly, he did! The trucker pulled up behind the car and climbed from his cab. The elderly man staggered from his auto and fell into the trucker’s arms. He poured out a story of months of fear and pain that accompanied the illness of his only daughter.
Now he was returning from the hospital where it was decided that she would cease any further treatment. In the hospital, he remained strong and stoic for his daughter, but out on the road he fell apart.
The two men talked for the good part of an hour. The father eventually decided to share his pain with his daughter and said he felt good enough to drive home. The men embraced and the trucker followed him for 50 miles. As they drove along, the two talked together on the radio.
The older man finally acknowledged that his exit was ahead and thanked his new friend again for the help. The trucker asked if he could make it home all right, and suddenly, a third voice broke in on the conversation, “Breaker 19, don’t worry, good buddy. Go your way. I’ll see him home!” Glancing in his mirror, he saw a livestock truck move into the exit lane behind the brown sedan.
A heart of compassion is a dynamic force that is essential to human relationships. It is something that can be nurtured and developed. I would like to share a simple acronym with you that you may find helpful in developing a heart of compassion.
Most of us currently own or have owned a pet at one time or another in our life. A pet is something we love, and we often feel it gives loves back. Having a pet is similar to having a child. You feed it, take care of it, get it medical attention when needed. Many allow their pet to sleep in bed with them at night time. Most folks are very compassionate about their pets because they are very near and dear to their hearts.
By using the word PET as an acronym, we can see an example of simple steps to take in developing a heart of compassion. P—is the first letter of the word PRACTICE. We can practice having a heart of compassion by being aware in all of our interactions with others. We can practice simple acts of kindness. As with any activity in life, as you practice you will become more proficient and develop a habit of living with a heart of compassion.
E—is the first letter of the word EMPATHY. We can empathize with others who are suffering or going through difficult times. We can offer whatever assistance we are capable of giving—whether it be as simple as a listening ear, or giving of our time, or in some cases; it could mean financial support. When we focus on the things we have in common with others and not on our differences, it becomes easier to empathize and give from a heart of compassion.
T—is the first letter of the word THANKFUL. When we remember to count our blessings, and think about all the things we have for which to be thankful, then it is much easier to have an attitude of gratitude. This allows us to function from a place of wanting to give, help, and serve others with a heart of compassion.
Think about the acronym PET to assist you in developing your heart of compassion. You will be surprised the difference this can make for you and others as you Dare To Do Your Best.