12:01 p.m.

submergedheart

I’m not a political person.  I’m a heart person.

That’s not to say that I’m uninformed about politics.  I’m not.  To the contrary, I make it a point to be as informed as I reasonably can be on politics and I do it using a variety of sources, including the New York Times, National Public Radio, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, CNN and the Fox News Network, so as to ensure that I am exposed to a broad spectrum of viewpoints, especially those I may disagree with. Thanks to various social media platforms, I’m also connected to thousands of people with highly divergent points of view, many of whom (thankfully) are not at all bashful about sharing their own hearts and political preferences, both publicly and privately. Over the past several months, many of those sources have expressed outrage over the results of the recent presidential election and a deep sense of sadness, fear, disgust, betrayal, and hopelessness around what until yesterday was the impending inauguration of You Know Who.  In recent weeks, the emotions that infused news commentaries, social media posts, and water cooler conversations reached a fever pitch to the point that I was all but convinced that, when the clock struck 12:01 p.m., a black cloud would actually descend across our great nation and stay there for a long, long time. The thing is that didn’t happen – at least not for me.  In fact, nothing about the heartfelt conversation I was having with a writer friend over lunch at 11:59 a.m. was any different at 12:01 p.m., nor I suspect were the conversations being had at the table next to us, in the restaurants across the street, in the lunchroom back at the office, or at the dining room tables in most homes across the country.

Some will likely say that my “white privilege” affords me the luxury of espousing the point of view that prompts me to write this post.  Others will argue that I would feel very differently if I were a woman, a member of the LBGT community, an African-American or other economically or socially disadvantaged or oppressed minority, an illegal or improperly-documented immigrant, or a Muslim – to name only a few – and all would be correct. I am white and I’m none of the others, which is one of the many reasons I not only respect the entitlement of all who have the feelings referenced above to harbor them, I’ve made it a point to be as supportive and encouraging as someone living outside of their skin can be. I want people to feel it all.  I like people who feel it all.  And I really like people who feel it all and share, which brings me to the point of all of this – a point that I hope will engender the same respect and thoughtfulness: Nothing that happened at 12:01 p.m. yesterday changed the hearts of the people in our lives, in our country, and in the world who are committed to making a difference and are making a difference.  It didn’t change the hearts of Glennon Doyle Melton or Rachel Macy Stafford or Brene Brown, who regularly and profoundly touch more lives in 24 hours than You Know Who will touch in the next 4 years.  It also didn’t change the hearts of Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis, who is committed to inspiring and empowering young girls, or of those who have selflessly dedicated their personal and professional lives to holding the light and hope for others (Beth McGilley, Margo Maine, Angie Viets, Johanna Kandel, Carolyn Costin, Jen Nardozzi, Keesha Broome, Michael Berrett, and Tara Hedman – to name only a few).  If anything, 12:01 p.m. prompted each of them to double-down!

As importantly, it didn’t change my son or daughter-in-law’s love for their little boy, Jake, nor, I suspect, the love you have for your children (or grandchildren), spouse, friend, partner, co-worker, parishioners, neighbors, relatives, etc. – and they for you. It also didn’t change the hearts or alter the conviction and tireless commitment that so many out-spoken advocates and recovery warriors have for those who have lost or temporarily misplaced their voices or are battling addictions and other demons.  I’m thinking specifically about people like Joanna Kay, Laura Porter, Nikki DuBose, Alison Smela, Kirsten Haglund, Jessica Raymond, Shannon Kopp, Allison Kreiger Walsh, Jenni Schaefer, Amanda Magee, Claire Mysko, Brian Cuban – and too many others to mention (Apologies in advance to those I’m leaving out.  I know none of you, including those mentioned, have any interest in being in the spotlight anyway). Finally, 12:01 p.m. didn’t change my heart and it won’t. I’m going to keep being “that guy”.  The guy who one friend recently described as having “feminist tendencies”!  The guy who feels it all and always has a minute (okay, an hour!).  The guy whose needy heart bore him a gift for spotting hearts in need a mile away and who refuses to walk by them without making some effort to lighten their load, ease their pain – or simply offer the gift of noticing.  The guy who leaves his phone on when he goes to bed in case of another’s late night struggle and the accompanying need for a word of comfort or encouragement. And I would urge all within ear shot of this post to make the same commitment.  Not to all that stuff I just mentioned. That’s not for everyone. Believe me.  Just the part about staying true to who you are and realizing that who may be in the White House will never matter nearly as much as what you have to give to those who are in your house, in your neighbor’s house and those who have no house at all.  The gift of you – of your heart poured out.

Dylan was right, “the times they are a changin’”.  The good news? The hearts, they ain’t.  March on!

http://tinyurl.com/zzg8w3o

A Few Thoughts About Misplaced Hearts

briella

A few days before Christmas, I sent the following break-of-dawn email to all of the lawyers in our firm’s Miami office with young children:

“Good morning!  Just wanted to let those on the “To” line know that they will arrive to find Santa Don’s 2016 Holiday Gift, “Heart Talks” on their chair.  When you read the Instruction Sheet inside the box, you may surmise that it’s a family exercise and ask yourself, “Why would Don give it to me, when he knows my kids either are too young to talk or just beginning to talk and, therefore, too young to play?!?” And you would be wrong. You see, “Heart Talks” aren’t just for kids anymore!  Adults (especially spouses) can benefit from them too. In fact, it will be good to get in some practice before the kids are old enough to play!  Hopefully, by the time they’re able to join in mom and dad already will have discovered the art and benefits of speaking the truth AT dinner, rather than having it FOR dinner.  Enjoy!  Don”

I think most of the recipients were rather intrigued by the concept and the gift, which had, as its centerpiece, a shiny glass heart similar to the one pictured above.  But, it was a thank you note I received from the mom of one of the youngest, 5 year-old Briella that inspired this post.  The note read simply:

“Thanks for this, Don.  It was very sweet of you to think of us.  Briella loved the heart.  In fact, she’s hidden it in a very special place (so special that she can no longer remember where she put it).  Good times!”

That’s cute, I thought as I headed out for my morning walk; and certainly something all of us can relate to – the putting of special things (e.g., photographs, keepsakes, love letters, etc.) in secret places and the frustration of later forgetting where we put them. But, after 6 miles of walking, it occurred to me that misplaced hearts are another matter altogether:

Dear Briella,

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret:

At one time or another, everyone (even your mom and dad!) has misplaced their heart.

Some do it by choice – by entrusting their heart to others who don’t deserve it, fail to care for and nurture it, don’t value its unique beauty, use and abuse it, badly bruise it with unwarranted guilt and shame, ignore or abandon it, and, in the process, violate that trust.

Others decide as a result of subtle or not-so-subtle messages they receive at an early age that their heart is unworthy of being seen, that it’s not only not beautiful, it’s ugly (imagine that) – and they hide it far away from the world, where even they have trouble finding it.

Still others, who once proudly displayed their hearts for all the world to see, one day decide theirs isn’t pretty enough, funny enough, engaging enough, desirable enough – and they bury it beneath layers and layers of what they perceive to be what the world values.

And then there are those whose hearts are being held hostage (under lock and chain, in seemingly impenetrable fortresses) by insidious diseases, alcohol and drug addiction, anxiety, depression, the venomous and unrelenting voice of an Inner Bully, or loneliness.

But, here’s the thing:

While they may have been misplaced for days or months or even years – and have the scars to prove it – nothing about these hearts is lost.  To the contrary, when they’re eventually found, their owners discover that their essence hasn’t changed at all – that their hearts are as uniquely beautiful today as yours is – and theirs was when they were five.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that, let alone to find your way back to that heart and allow yourself a second (or third) chance to more fully explore and experience just how beautiful it is, especially when you get older and you start to forget the way it “looked” the last time you saw it clearly – unadorned by all that other stuff.

With that in mind, maybe today you (or your mom) could jot down a few of the things that make your heart smile and tuck the note away just in case your heart too goes missing someday and you need to be reminded where to find it.  In the meantime, please accept this “second chance” heart from me to you as a symbol of this important truth.

Your friend,

Don

P.S. I love your name!

http://tinyurl.com/gtjgvox

“What Does She See?” #ABirdTale

birdsnest

Maybe if you walk long enough, often enough, with eyes and heart wide open, and in the right places, it just happens. You see some remarkable things. And I have: a young girl learning to ride a bike for the first time and celebrating the accomplishment with her dad; a weekend duffer finding the sweet spot and watching in disbelief as his perfectly struck iron shot soars through the air and settles within inches of the cup; the special bond between an old man and his dog; a pair of 80+ year-old lovers still holding hands; a child taking their first steps; a little boy with skinned and bleeding knees mustering the courage to get back on his two-wheeler and try again; breathtaking sunrises, sunsets and rainbows; a father hugging his teenage son with intention and compassion;  the magic of a game-winning goal; a single mom teaching her son how to throw a football; a friend drying another friend’s tears; orchids in bloom; the kindness of strangers; Santa Claus riding on the back of a firetruck; and (only in South Florida!) rain falling on one side of the street, but not the other; to name only a few.

But, it’s the things I sometimes see in the ordinary, in images I’m certain I’ve seen a thousand times before, but, thanks to insights gleaned from my daughter, I now see differently (perhaps as they were always meant to be seen) – that inspire me, resonate most deeply in my soul, and often stop me in my tracks.  And so it was last Saturday morning, as I came across a young bird picking up a tattered piece of fabric on the sidewalk and carrying it to a perch in a nearby tree, where she quite obviously was in the early stages of building a nest.  I really hadn’t planned to give the moment a second thought and didn’t, until several steps later when I felt that now familiar stir inside of me.  Uncertain of its source, I continued on, making the nearly 2 mile circle back and then I saw her again, this time sifting, with the determination and enthusiasm of a holiday shopper, through a small pile of brown leaves at the base of a tree.  It was then that tears started trickling down the sides of my face and I hurried home to put them on paper:

What does she see . . .

in the tattered piece of cloth torn from a since discarded blanket?

in the fragile twig convinced it lacks the strength to survive, let alone contribute?

in the delicate feather left behind by a recently departed friend?

in the scrap of paper torn in anger from another letter of rejection?

in the fallen brown leaves certain that their life was over?

in the tender reed bruised and buffeted by one too many storms?

in the straw, the piece of string, the remnants of an old cotton ball, the low hanging moss?

What does she see . . .

in the brokenness?

in the discarded?

in the misshapen?

in the ill-fitting?

in the left for dead?

What does she see . . .

that we can’t or refuse to see – that we walk by, dismiss, disregard, trample upon?

She sees beyond.

She sees missing and essential pieces.

She sees the blueprint of a home.

A home that is uniquely hers,

that woven together with tenderness, patience and care will one day provide her and those she loves with warmth, comfort, security and shelter,

that is beautiful –

and she is (rightfully) proud.

Maybe today, we can resolve (dare I say commit?) to stealing a page from my new feathered friend’s songbook.  Maybe today we can honor her by allowing ourselves to look beyond what may, on their face, appear to be the mistakes, the brokenness, the missteps, the ill-fitting pieces of our past (or our present).  Maybe we can see them through her eyes for what they are: pieces of something bigger, something stronger, something more life-supporting, something that woven together, tenderly, patiently, lovingly, with all the good is our “home”, what makes us uniquely beautiful.  Maybe in the process we can replace the shame and guilt that we have associated with them with rightful pride for having survived them, for overcoming.  Maybe, for just a minute, we can entertain the possibility that those who love us most and know us best have been right all along:  We are all of that – the beautiful and the broken – and still loved and worthy of love.

http://tinyurl.com/gophnjv