Down deep, I’m a compassionate person. At the same time, I’m relatively stoic. Emotion is not something I show or express often. Yet, there are those things that catch me off-guard and, as hard as I try, can not hold back a tear or two…or more. Today I read a poem that did such a thing and made me wonder about those things which, almost universally, cause our hearts to melt.
"Brid" On a rainy May afternoon, under a prickly barberry, the buried bird finally found its name. For underneath that barberry, on a white piece of wet paper resting on dark, damp pine mulch were the words of children: "We love you Brid." All this remembrance and mourning, all the words and crayon hearts were weighed down by half a brick, petals, and plenty of rain. Killed a month ago by a cat and then bured by a father, Brid now flies only in the memory of the Watcher of fallen wangs and, of course, in the memory of children, who suffer themselves to watch with Him. (poem from Celtic Nan, by John Hopkins)
The hardest heart can soften with a seemingly insignificant word or story. Perhaps it’s a small gesture of kindness toward a person who has recently been unkind to another. A moment, innocently done, that highlights the cruelty of another.
Or, perhaps it triggers a memory from years past.
- A man can beat his lover and then walk down the road moments later and be angered and hurt at the sight of cruelty to a stray cat at the hands of children, a reminder of things he’d rather forget.
- A mother can scream at her kids all day, every day, and in the solitude of the darkness, cry at a scene on a screen showing the same behavior in a movie or tv show as she subconsciously remembers her own childhood.
- Seeing an abandoned dog crying on the side of a road can take our breath away as we recall losing our own pet. Or, our own feelings of abandonment and rejection suddenly find a weak spot and explode to the surface.
Some people have tender and compassionate hearts but don’t shed tears easily in the real world. Yet, a commercial or movie releases streams of tears down their cheeks (which, sometimes, are quickly wiped away at the jesting, laughter, and mockery of others).
Submerged under layers of propriety, we all have a tender spot in our hearts. It’s usually stories of innocence that trigger even the toughest soul. We’ve all been innocent in unjust circumstances; each one hurt in our young virtue. Some more than others, or in different ways.
But pain is pain. To compare pain is to say one’s pain is more relevant than another’s.
The reason the little things cause our hearts to melt is that it’s the little things that easily find our tender spots; the places where we haven’t built up a barrier. I suppose it’s the place that lets us shed the tears our soul desperately wants to shed for other reasons.
Our hearts are jostled and a tear can escape through a song on the radio, when we see a baby bird that’s fallen out of the nest, watching a toddler cry when their ice cream drops to the ground and are scolded by their parent, or at the reading of a poem about children mourning the loss of a pet.
Our hearts melt because our hearts remember our own innocence, our own loss.