There is a story I tell the girls in Relationships 101. I will shorten it a little.
It’s about a young man who says he has the perfect heart.
He stands up in the middle of town and tells everyone, “ Look at my heart. It is the most beautiful heart in the world. It is flawless and has the most amazing form, shape and color.” Everyone oohs and ahs and agrees. Indeed this is the most perfect heart they have ever seen. An old man who is a little disheveled walks by limping, starts to laugh and says, “That is ridiculous. If you want to see a perfect heart, look at this.” And he reveals his torn, tattered, jagged-edged heart. Everyone gasps.
The young man is astounded. “That??” he asks.
“You think that is a perfect heart? You are delusional!”
The old man with sweet eyes says, “Yes, this is the perfect heart for it has loved. It has broken. It has healed. Pieces have been torn out to be given to others only to have holes left because love was not returned. Other places have misfit pieces of love that were given but didn’t match. There are places that hope tore through. There are wounds of hurt as well as pieces of joy. This is a heart that has lived.
This is a perfect heart. It has loved. It has fallen. It got up and yet it is still beating strongly.”
The young man with tears in his eyes walks over to the man, pulls a piece of his perfect heart out and places it over one of the jagged edges of the old man’s heart.
“You are right, old man. Now, my heart is perfect.”
I tell the girls that we are and can only be our pain, our mistakes, our heartbreaks, and the love we gave and received.
It gets very quiet. I see them thinking about what I just said.
I then ask them to draw their hearts.
The pictures they draw are heartbreaking, heartwarming, and heart expanding.
So much pain and sorrow! No one should have that, especially at such a young age!
One is particularly amazing. It has a tree and a swing growing out of it.
I ask them to share one thing that gives their heart joy.
“When I was loved by the guy I was in love with."
“When my baby was born.”
“When I am with my family.”
“When I am with my friends.”
Then I ask them to write one good choice they made, because after seeing their breaking hearts, I want them to see the good in themselves.
“Going back to school.”
“Helping my mom.”
“When I didn’t run from the police, even when I had a chance to, and I got arrested.”
“Not doing drugs for a year.”
We eat a snack while we are writing. One girl is busy choosing music and playing it in the background.They each can request one song at the beginning of our time together.
I download all the songs onto my phone.
Each week we listen to different songs.
God help me if anyone ever looks at my play list!
I notice this one girl is so busy with the music she isn’t doing the exercise.
“What about your heart?” I ask. “And the writing exercise. You didn’t do it!”
“Don’t come at me like that!” she responds.
“Like what?” I ask.
“Being mad and all,” she replies.
“I’m not mad,” I answer. “I need your words to be able to write the play.
Without your words, I have no words.”
She is quiet so I add. “I’m not mad. I am frustrated.”
“Are you sure you want my words, Ms.?” she says quietly.
“I am positive. You were so busy being a DJ for the music that you didn’t do what I need you to do. You see I really need YOUR words.”
“You want my words AND you think I can be a DJ??”
She giggles. “My heart is happy, Ms.”
She leaves the music on my phone and goes to do the exercise.
My heart sighs. What will I do with these kids?
There is music. There is food. There is art. And our hearts are out on display. It is warm and calm. For a moment we all forget where we are.
But it is time to end the session. I went a good thirty minuets overtime. Luckily the probation officer with me today was kind.
“Where else do they have to go?” She shrugs.
“Stay as long as you like.”
And she goes back to texting on her phone.
I get them together for the final circle.
There is a good feeling. Our hearts are full.
I didn’t ask them to, but they all hold hands.
Someone asks, “Are we going to pray?”
“No,” I say, “We are just going to close the session.”
“Can I sing?” one asks.
“Sing this, sing that,” several of them suggest.
Our singer quietly says, “I want to sing something I wrote in the box.”
The box is the solitary confinement cell the girls are put in when they misbehave.
It’s not as bad as the ones we see on TV. But it definitely is not good .
Some kids actually like going there because it’s quiet.
But for some it can be really challenging -
I could write 10 blogs about the box and what it can do to some kids, but that will wait for another time.
She sings. I have to bite my tongue, because I could potentially break down sobbing.
A tear sneaks out of my eye.
My girls are always amused when I cry.
They think it is hilarious and touching.
I think it makes them feel good that someone is so emotional about them.
Maybe it makes them a little uncomfortable, but for most of them it is actually shocking that anyone would cry from something they say or do.
“I can see your heart, Ms.,” one says.
Oh, my heart. My aching heart has been through a lot lately.
But as the old man said, a heart that has hurt and has been broken can be, will be and is always stronger.
I ask her to sing again.
Her voice is sweet and beautiful, deep, and emotional.
She sings with big brown, sad eyes. Her eyes go straight to my heart.
“Behind these cold walls, I found myself. Some people aren’t so lucky to get to know themselves at all.It takes some folks a blink before death to see that they had a purpose, after all.So, please go and find yourself before the wrong thing does.”
I stand very close to her and tell her very quietly how good it is that she used her time in the box to write such an inspiring and beautiful song, that it was an excellent choice.
I hug her, and say again, “An excellent choice,” because I have no other words.
My heart is confused. What a magnificent song. What a horrible situation. My heart is aching and proud at the same time.
“Can I have a copy of the heart story, Ms.?”
“Of coarse.” I give her the one I printed to read.
“It’s a good story, Ms. It’s a little like the song. Maybe when our heart is broken there is a purpose.”
“Maybe,” I say. “But let’s work on not getting it broken. Okay?”
“You got it!” and she smiles the most radiant smile.
And my heart is whole.