Having a Beautiful Heart

One grandfather quipped about his grandchildren: “My grandkids are four and six. The Pulitzer Prize winner is four and the brain surgeon is six.”

Parents and grandparents are understandably proud of the quick minds and impressive talents of their little ones. But let me tell you about another quality, perhaps even more important. A grandmother wrote to me and told me this story about her four-year-old granddaughter Skylar. 

It was Christmastime. Skylar had saved coins in a piggy bank all year and decided to buy presents for her family with her savings. But she also learned from announcements on television about a local homeless shelter called “The Road House.” She repeatedly asked her mother what “homeless” meant and why those children needed coats and warm clothes. The concept of people in such physical need deeply affected her.

Skylar’s mother took her to the store to buy Christmas presents. But instead of buying for herself or her family, she decided to use her savings for somebody at the shelter. They learned that there was a little girl staying there about Skylar’s age, and she purchased a warm coat, socks, gloves and crayons for the child. She also wanted to buy her a doll (a “baby,” as she called it), but when she discovered she didn’t have enough money, she left the doll behind. When Skylar got home, she selected one of her own much-loved dolls to give away. The baby went into a box with the other items.

She could hardly wait for Christmas. Skylar was not thinking about Santa Claus or any presents she might be getting. She was thinking only about going to the shelter and giving her carefully selected gifts to a little girl she had never met.

On Christmas Eve she and her family finally made the trip Skylar had been anticipating for so long. They drove to the shelter. There she presented her Christmas box to a grateful child. She was so filled with joy at truly touching someone else’s life that her family decided to make the journey to the shelter an annual tradition.

“Perhaps it’s good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to have a beautiful heart,” says Nobel Laureate John Nash (“A Beautiful Mind”). He would have appreciated young Skylar’s heart.

Beautiful hearts don’t just happen. Nash calls it a gift, but it’s a gift in the way that faith or hope or love are gifts. And I’m convinced we have each been endowed with a beautiful heart. We may not always see it. We may not even believe it. But it’s a gift that came with birth and, every time we act selflessly, it grows a little.

And so, we pray: Lord, I have been blessed in so many ways through my life… parents, wife, child, grandchildren and all the folks in the churches I have served. Everywhere I have been I have witnessed people with beautiful hearts who go out of their way to give to uplift others. Help me too also have a beautiful heart. Amen.

Grace and Peace

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