Layers of Love

WholeHeart makes a bold claim in “envisioning a world with a global operating system based on love.”  Love you say?  What do you mean by that?  What can one organization do?  What can one individual do, to stand in what Parker J. Palmer refers to as “The Tragic Gap”-- that divide between reality and what we know to be possible? The answer is that we have to be willing to make our hearts more supple so that when they do break, they break open and not into shards.  Through my work at WholeHeart, I have come to realize with increasing clarity is that LOVE is too often defined as something that is idealistic and unachievable by Hallmark greeting card standards.  I want to reframe our culture’s definition of “love” by naming that it is not the namby-pamby, but a place where heartache and beauty meet.  It’s about getting down into the dirt and being with the difficult parts of life and still finding a small space for joy.  I hope this recent piece of writing gives you a taste of what I mean by true love.

America’s Dream

By Tara Reynolds

 Hot, stale air. The rattle of an air exchange system beats overhead but shows no signs of bringing in anything fresh. Books are displayed across three tables and my recorder waits for a father’s voice. My head aches from fluorescent lights and concrete that absorbs no sound.  Sweat drips down the inside of my blouse, and the moisture on my skin serves as an odd reminder to guard my femininity.

Men return from their work crews and as they wait to be strip-searched I feel their stares. Some ask questions, What’s that there? I explain about the books and how they can stay in touch with their kids by reading one to them. Do you have any children?  I ask.  Some look like kids themselves, some like grandfathers; some seem to have clean clear eyes, others just look away. Most of the men are rigidly polite. They turn to wonder.  Do you do this for work? Why would someone want to volunteer to do this?  I explain how I am a basketball coach and every season I have at least a couple of players with parents on the inside.  I want to do something to help bring families closer together.  Can I send one to each of my kids even if they live in different places? As long as you have the addresses, yup. A voice from the back of the line chimes in, Yo, you should do it, yo, it’s a really cool program. He runs his fingers over some of the titles, images and characters rising up, and boyishly exclaims, Hey, I remember this one!

In the sticky, sweat stench of this room there is beauty—Dads ask for books about cats and princesses for their little girls. Baseballs Best, is read and recorded for a boy in Brooklyn.

My heart breaks to see the man who had been out for six months, back in. He shares his story and I listen. Is there anything that would have made it different for you out there?  He is silent for a moment then locks my gentle gaze and says, I didn’t have anyone to talk to. He shares his heartache and the joy he felt when he was out with his boys. He had three days with his oldest and taught him how to ride a bike by marking lines in the dirt driveway and encouraging his son to steer along the traced paths.  His eyes shone and I knew it wasn’t a half-truth to impress me.  He cried in the courtroom a week later when he signed over custody.  It didn’t take long for him to get back on the suboxone Then home again here.  Pain is pain.  I wonder how hearing him liberates us both.   

“He seems to be pointing to a flagpole out past centerfield—the ball sails out—into the bleachers. Yankees fans and Cubs fans rise to their feet together.” A one-in-a-million homer, America’s Dream.