Thursday, January 8, 2009
Prayers of a Broken Heart For 2009
By Leeat Granek (Guest Voice)
When I was five, I prayed that G-d would give me a heart shield like the one my big brother had on his Superman costume. I was an emotional kid. Every report card since nursery school proclaimed me to be, “a sensitive child.” Bambi made me hysterical with grief. I picked up on every mood and feeling expressed and unexpressed by my family members. I thought the shield would protect my heart from the pain, but my brother never let me borrow his suit, and the theory never got tested.
When I was 15, I asked G-d to make me cooler. I wanted to be disaffected, unemotional, and composed. Instead, I cried when we read The Outsiders and Cat’s Eye. I squealed to my friends that I loved them. A lot. Way too often for any teenager trying to survive high school. I worked every day at the mall after school and gave away all my money to homeless people. I desperately wanted to care less. Feel less. Notice less. Either G-d didn’t hear me, or wouldn’t grant my wish.
When I was 25, death came to my family, and my heart broke. This time, I asked G-d for faith that it would be put back together again. Some of the shattered pieces scattered, never to be found again. Other pieces eventually mended, and although the scars remain, a somewhat intact heart has been born in its stead.
Today, at 29, I am thankful for my broken/whole heart. The cracks allow other people’s grief in, but also let it out. The jaggedness of my rebuilt heart means that people’s secrets can fit inside the crooks for safekeeping, without taking too much space, or crowding out the joy and love that reside there too. Mostly, though, this expanded heart, stretched by so much pain and suffering, has taught me about the way I want to live my life.
We live in a world where it is not cool to show too much feeling. We ask each other how we are doing, but rarely wait for the answer. We write short, terse emails, failing to read between the lines and picking up on our friend’s yearning for connection, or our siblings need to be acknowledged. We pass our frazzled co-workers in the hall, ignoring their zombie eyes, and defeated postures because we are trying to make the deadline. We live in a very troubled world. A compulsive world, fed by manic busy-ness, propelling us forward so fast, we can rarely find our center, or know if we are facing the right direction.
It is 2009 and it is time to slow down. It is time to notice. It is time to care.
This year, I no longer pray to G-d to protect my heart, I now ask for a world where it is ok to be vulnerable. I call for more talking, more listening, and more being.
I pray for kindness: taking the extra minute to respond fully and compassionately to a phone call, an email, a text message, or better, an in-person request.
I pray for attention: noticing the pain in a student’s, a client’s, a supervisor’s eyes and asking them about it.
I pray for generosity: making eye contact with the homeless person on the street and offering a smile and a fistful of dollars.
I pray for love: for the boundless expression of our affection to everyone around us -- to those who deserve and yearn to hear it -- and to those whom we struggle to express it to, but who we care about nonetheless.
Finally, for the first time in my life, I pray for more sensitivity: for the reminder that every being wants to feel loved and validated and that giving this to them is a lot easier than it seems. It requires of us only to slow down, notice, and respond.
One of the gifts of this broken/whole heart is the realization that no matter how broken(a heart or a world) seems to be, it can always be fixed. At a time where we are running through our financial resources, the things that truly matter, the things we need to mend the heart and the world, the things that will make this year different than any other year are not only widely available, they are totally free.