For the ache in our hearts, we may consult any of a plentitude of self-interest books, magazines and blogs. They advise their special tonic, resulting in certitude of self, mindful decision making, and a quieting of the spirit. In our soul-seeking, self-critical spiritual deficit, what is the real source of such an ache?
Given a lack of something (such as love, money, companionship, career) there seems to be an overall sense of completeness that wish strive to achieve. But I ask: when have we finally “made it”? When have reached the point of “enough”, or more specifically, having enough of something? Is it goods we’re seeking, or a salve for our weary or wounded hearts.
I am a citizen of the United States, a place of magnificent abundance. Every day I am grateful to live in this country. But I’ve noticed that we overstimulate our sensation of plenty. In other words, we, collectively, have so much, and, it’s shocking that we are coexisting in a world where some people lack access to the most basic of needs. Some people are without a roof over their head while simultaneously, we have Amazon delivering laundry soap at the press of a button. There’s this imbalance of plenty and want. Why do some have so little whereas others an excess of plenty?
The contrast was magnified in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Tampa, Florida, my hometown and present residence, was forecast as the target for the brunt of the category four storm. As we evacuated our home, the thought that I could return to rubble pressed hard upon my temples. In a dramatic turn of events, the hurricane veered east and we withstood only minor damage. I returned home to things as they were left. I even had power, which equals comfort in the form of air conditioning — which is practically necessary in the static Florida heat.
Grateful for my good fortune, I also felt something of guilt and a great deal of compassion for my fellow humans (and their animal companions) that have been dealt the tragic side of the coin. In the span of a few hours, some were spared while others had lost everything.
In the aftermath of these events, we give what we can in the form of fiscal or provisional donations — and are reminded to count our blessings. Catastrophic events always demonstrate extremes of fragility and strength. We clearly see the things that are of great value, generally, the most basic of human needs like housing, food and water. Yet there is beautiful side to these tragedies: They generally demonstrate the goodness of humanity. Vicious political lines fade to naught and we are suddenly reunited with one another. We suddenly don’t care about any of the prejudices or pettiness that fracture our relatability. Over the course of tragic circumstances, we unite. I was incredibly proud by the effort I saw in the wake of Hurricane Irma. A good friend of mine tapped her corporate aviation connections to coordinate private jets full of donated goods to the Houston (for Hurricane Harvey), then the Keys (Irma) and later, Puerto Rico. Friends opened their homes to anyone needing to evacuate. Those with generators offered hot showers or a cup of coffee to people suffering in the heat without power. We help one another. These are the immaterial yet invaluable things that fulfill the heart when it’s aching. Cups overflowed with compassion and gentleness, a kind word or gesture. Those with something to give, gave. Those that were in need were accepting and appreciative.
The world is always going to have turmoil; It’s how we approach these events. If we begin and end with gratitude, nothing can break us.