The Perfect Heart

The Perfect Heart
By: Reverend Daniel Casey

There is a kingdom and a place not far from where you are right now, and in this kingdom and in this place there are very special people. Now these people are special because they consider their most valuable possession to be their hearts. In fact some of the people are able to hold their hearts in their hands - a very special gift indeed - and even if a heart gets broken it may be repaired at the local heart specialist. These people believe that all of their actions should flow from their hearts.

Now in this kingdom there lived a young man who claimed to have a perfect heart. He was very proud of his heart because it had no cracks or scars. It was very solid and could not be hurt or penetrated by anything at all. One day the young man was showing his perfect heart to a large group of people - something which he did quite often. People came from miles around to see his perfect heart and for such occasions he kept it locked in a beautiful glass case. No one in the kingdom dared touch him or his perfect heart. They just looked at him in amazement for there was no one else like him in the entire kingdom.

Suddenly a frail voice arose from the crowd and said: "My heart is more beautiful than yours."
The crowd was quiet for a moment, and finally the young man laughed at such a claim for he was sure perfection was the most beautiful thing in the world. When his laughter subsided, he said to the person with the frail voice: "Come out of the crowd and show me your beautiful heart. Compare it to mine!" The young man was sure there could be no comparison, but he enjoyed the attention immensely. Slowly the source of the frail voice appeared as a little old man emerged from the crowd. He was bent with age and his face was covered with lines that told the story of a long and sometimes difficult life.

The young man spoke arrogantly to him saying: "Let me see your heart, Old Man, so I can compare it to mine." The old man did not speak - he simply showed his heart to everyone in the crowd. He did not keep his heart in a fine glass case, but he carried it with him at all times. He merely stood before the crowd gently holding his heart in his old wrinkled hands. The young man immediately began to laugh when he saw the old heart. "That is the ugliest heart I've ever seen. Why it's made of pieces that don't even fit together perfectly. You are a fool, Old Man!" When he said this, everyone laughed.

The old man began to speak again, and his frail voice could hardly be heard by the people in the crowd. "Many years ago my heart was like yours. Yes, it was perfect - but that was before I knew the meaning of love. My heart had no cracks. It had never been hurt. It was just another part of me, but soon I began to learn what love was all about and that's when my heart began to change." The young man began to laugh, but a little girl in the crowd cried out: "Be quiet and let this old man tell us his story."

So the young man stopped laughing, and the old man continued to speak as his heart tottered back and forth in his hands. "No, my heart does not look perfect because it is not my heart alone. You see whenever I love another person, I give him a piece of my heart and he gives me a piece of his. We cannot be separated - not even by death. In fact, when someone I love dies, part of me dies with them and yet at the same time part of that person lives on in me, and I am able to share that person's love and life with others.
So to you, my heart may look very ugly and funny because of the strange shapes that it is made of, but to me it is beautiful because I carry within my heart the love of many people whom I have loved and who have loved me in return. By the standards of the world it is not perfect, but the heart does not exist by worldly standards..... It lives because of love, and is measured by love." He looked at the young man and said: "Yes, your heart is perfect to look at, but it has not yet known real love, so it lacks the beauty that only love can provide."

The crowd stood silent, and waited for the young man to respond when finally he said: "Old Man, you have explained the various odd shapes that make up your heart, but you have not explained the meaning of the ugly cracks."

Again the old man spoke with a sigh: "Whenever you love someone you take a risk, and sometimes it can cause a great deal of pain because we can hurt one another so easily - but love is not known unless those risks are taken. The cracks that you see are reminders of the times when I have been hurt by one of the persons I have loved, or when I have hurt one of them. Some take their love away and remove themselves from your heart and remove you from their hearts. It is things like this that cause those cracks to appear. Yes, it sometimes hurts to love, but you must keep on loving even when it is painful. Love can be a cause of both laughter and of tears, and sometimes you can't understand the cause of either the laughter or the tears. They are just a part of your real love - and, throughout, you continue to hold your friends in your heart which is the most delicate and sensitive part of your entire self.

By this time the young man was crying very hard, for he had come to realize he was always so busy with his perfect heart that he had never loved anyone nor had he allowed anyone to love him. He removed his heart from his special glass case and held it in his hand. It was very cold and hard to touch. Tears flowed over his heart, and he was extremely sad because he did not know the meaning of real love. He only knew about perfection. Just as he was about to leave the crowd and go away from the kingdom to hide forever, he noticed the old man hobbling toward him. The young man looked up and saw the old man reaching towards the oddly shaped heart that was in his wrinkled venerable hands. The old man had removed a very ancient piece of his heart and offered it to the young man. He said: "This is a piece of my heart. I give it to you out of real love. Please accept it."

The young man reached out to accept the piece of the old man's heart. He quickly tried to make it a part of his own, but he soon realized that there was no room for it. He was puzzled for a moment until he looked at the old man and saw the answer in his caring eyes. Then the young man nervously removed a piece of his own heart and offered it to the old man.

Now the old man's heart was so oddly shaped that the piece he had given to the young man did not fit perfectly into his heart, but the young man simply set it in its place and looked at it through tears of real joy. For the first time in his life he really felt happy and he realized his heart was no longer cold and hard but it was now soft and warm. He finally had a happy heart - one that new the meaning of love. The young man and the old man set their hearts in their rightful places and they were both very happy. The crowd cheered and cried aloud.

The young man told his teacher that he wanted to follow him for the rest of his life, but the wise old man said: "No, my son, you must not follow me. Now that you have learned of real love you must go forth and share it with others. You must share your love, as I have shared mine, throughout the kingdom." The young man felt very sad again, and he was sure that his heart was beginning to break, but the old man spoke again: "You must remember that we always carry one another in our hearts no matter where we go. That's what makes them so beautiful, and we will always be together because of that." The young man knew the old man was right. He walked up to him. They embraced and then went off in different directions to spread the meaning of real love throughout the kingdom.

The young man may still be found traveling throughout the kingdom telling his story about the meaning of real love. He has never returned his heart to the glass case. Now he keeps it in its rightful place willing to show it to all who wish to see it. Night and day he rejoices over his heart, now oddly shaped but very beautiful. If you ever meet him, he will surely tell you this story of how he learned that love is so much more beautiful than perfection. Perhaps you have already met him - if not look around - he may be close to you right now for there is a kingdom and a place not far from where you are right now... and in this kingdom there are very special people.