Friday, December 16, 2011

The Road to a Loving Heart

To use a cultural reference that’s sure to date me, the other night I thought of a line from Joni Mitchell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi” in which the lyrics talk about how so often we never understand what we have until we lose it(I’m paraphrasing so to avoid copyright infringement).

Sitting at my desk absorbed in a writing project, I heard a sound I’d never heard before emanating from another part of the house. Now having raised two children, there are two things related to noise that ought to stop any mother in her tracks. The first is silence. The second is an auditory trailblazer. 

I left my desk and went into the den. There was a reason I’d never heard anything like it before. I can’t tell you the last time I heard a seventy-pound dog stripping a cloth binding from an early twentieth century book. 

Yes, Lucy had selected a volume from my antique reader collection for her chewing enjoyment. 

I would have cried, but I’ve found it doesn’t do much good.

I sat down with the book to figure out if anything about it was salvageable. Trying to understand exactly what I’d lost now that it was gone, I flipped through the pages, scanned the stories, and the vintage lithographs. 

I almost decided to recycle it, when my eyes fell on  the words “The Road to the Loving Heart,” a story by Catherine Bryce about Robert Louis Stevenson. In it, she writes about how Stevenson moved to Samoa in the South Pacific for his health. He lived at the top of a hill for the clean air, but had an arduous journey to get there over a rough path. The often-needy Samoans were repeatedly the beneficiaries of his love and attention even though the journey to reach them took a toll on his health. After some time, the Samoans wanted to return Stevenson’s kindness and built a road to his house. Overjoyed by their present, Stevenson intended erect a road sign with words of gratitude to the Samoans.

But before he could, the Samoans put up their own sign in their language. Translated, it read:

 “The Road of the Loving Heart. Remembering the great care of his Highness Tusitala, and his loving care when we were in prison and sore distressed, we have prepared him an enduring present—this road which we have dug to last forever. It shall never be muddy, it shall endure, this road that we have dug.”

Bryce concludes by saying, “…that a kind deed is never lost; it will be found years afterward in some loving heart.”

Sometimes we grow weary, especially this time of year. Christmas brings additional demands. We feel stretched. We wonder if what we do makes a difference. Might it encourage us to know that our acts of kindness will not be erased, but carried always in other’s hearts?

“…blessed is he who is kind to the needy “(Proverbs 14:21).

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