I spoke about this little tin heart in a keynote address earlier this year. It’s from the story of the tin soldier and how, at the end of everything, this was all that was left of him. The tin soldier story is one of those Job-like tales where everything keeps going wrong, over and over again, and you think, “Things can’t go on like this!” but then they do.
2011 was a very wonderful year in many ways and a year that in other ways marked the beginning of difficult things that will likely not end soon.
One curse and one gift from this year is that I feel like my little tin heart is on fire all of the time. I have become more observant of all the little cruelties people perpetuate upon each other, but I have also become deeply aware of all the kind things that people do for one another. Earlier this month, I went to the mall with my youngest boy. I dread going to the mall during Christmastime–I’m not a big shopper any time of the year, and it’s so busy during the holidays. But it had to be done. And I found myself on the verge of tears several times over the course of those few hours, as I watched several acts of kindness where the person performing the act had no idea they were being observed. I might not have had the time to see them, had I not been moving at a three-year-old’s pace with my little guy. His eyes were wide with wonder and delight at everything, and I was fragile, in a good way for once, a walking assemblage of pieces shattered and put together again, broken and humbled and then made whole again by good people doing good things.
I can’t watch when people are being mean to each other. I get no joy in reading snarky blogs or mean reviews or in writing them myself–I don’t do any of those things. I’m not talking about honest, thoughtful criticism or parody etc., just meanness. Don’t get me wrong: I love well-done satire, my sense of humor tends toward the sarcastic, sometimes I come across as distant or blunt because I’m thinking about other things, those that haunt my mind and heart. Sometimes I am just plain grumpy. I make many, MANY mistakes and it is the ongoing goal of my life to be more patient and kind, and one I will probably never fully achieve. But I have to keep trying.
I believed before this year, and even more firmly believe now, that all that matters is whether or not you loved and were loved. That little heart, to me, represents what is left when everything else about you has been taken or burned away.
My wish for my little family, and for all of you, is an increased measure of love and kindness in 2012.