Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Hearts growing strong

Naomi Remen, a physician who uses art, meditation and other spiritual practices in the healing of cancer patients, told me a moving story that illustrates the process of healing the heart, which accompanies a healing of the body. She described a young man who was twenty-four years old when he came to her after one of his legs had been amputated at the hip in order to save his life from bone cancer. When she began her work with him he had a great sense of injustice and hatred for all "healthy" people. It seemed bitterly unfair to him that he had suffered this terrible loss so early in life. His grief and rage were so great that it took several years of continuous work for him to begin to come out of himself and to heal. He had to heal not only his body but also his broken heart and wounded spirit.

He worked hard and deeply, telling his story, painting it, meditating, bringing his entire life into awareness. As he slowly healed, he developed a profound compassion for others in similar situations. He began to visit people in the hospital who had also suffered severe physical losses. On one occasion, told his physician, he visited a young singer who was so depressed about the loss of her breasts that she would not even look at him. The nurses had the radio playing, probably hoping to cheer her up. It was a hot day, and the young man had come in running shorts. Finally, desperate to get her attention, he unstrapped his artificial leg and began dancing around the room snapping his fingers to the music. She looked at him in amazement, and then burst out laughing and said, "Man, if you can dance, I can sing."

When this young man first began working with drawing, he made a crayon sketch of his own body in the form of a vase with a deep crack running through it. He redrew the crack over and over and over, grinding his teeth with rage. Several years later, to encourage him to complete his process, my friend showed him his early pictures again. He saw the image of the vase and said, "Oh this one isn’t finished." When she suggested he finish it then, he did. He ran his finger along the crack, saying, "You see here, this is where the light comes through." With a yellow crayon, he drew light streaming through the crack into the body of the vase and said, "Our hearts can grow strong at the broken places."

From Jack Kornfield’s book A Path with Heart, pg. 48.

Yesterday I stood in a queue for an hour and a quarter in Dizengoff Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv. Hundreds of people stood there in line along with me, quiet and orderly, some chatting to the people they had come with, others making new friends. And more and more were joining the queue all the time.

It moved forward very slowly, but no one pushed; no one tried to cut in; no one complained -- I didn’t hear even the faintest of grumbles.

For thirty years I’ve been standing in queues in this country. I have never experienced a queue quite like this one. So what was this, a flash mob of German tourists?

Not quite.

These were people who had come to give blood for the national pool of bone marrow donors, in the hope of helping to find a match for three year old Omri Raziel. These were people in the business of giving. It was an act of selflessness. They had come because of their compassion for this little boy and his terrible suffering, in the hope that maybe they could save his life.

They weren’t standing in queue for themselves, so it made no sense for them to be angry or impatient or grabbing. And so many of them came, all over the country, that by lunchtime there were no test tubes left anywhere for the blood samples.

Now all we can do is hope they find a match. To pay for testing all the blood samples little Omri's family needs to raise over a million dollars. You can help too.