I have written before about the different types of love: romantic, maternal, self-love, etc. There is another kind of love- silent and fateful, an obligation to yield because it makes us who we are. A person can be the direction of our heart. A navigator on our journey through life.
I have been fortunate in my tumultuous existence to meet random strangers who were effectively in charge of the direction of my broken, damaged heart. People who I met literally on the street and with whom I have gone on to forge close friendships and connections, which had a strength of purpose in that precise moment in my life. When I was a student, for example, I foolishly headed to Bordeaux on a whim without any back up plan or knowledge of what I was going to do. I met someone at the airport who offered me a place to stay. That person taught me about what I didn't want- to take drugs and distance myself from the real world. I then moved into an unfurnished apartment and received a knock on the door that same day from a kindly lady who offered me her spare furniture. That lady would become my defacto grandmother- someone who utterly adored me and I her. My friendship with this angelic woman occurred just as my family was falling apart- my brother had caused my parents terrible heartbreak and the repercussions within our family felt like being on a rollercoaster where you wanted to scream but knew all too well that no one would hear. I had to learn how to deal with the unhappiness in my family and in the process, heal my shattered soul. If I hadn't had the affection of a little old lady who knocked on my door out of kindness, I don't think I would have managed to stay sane.
A couple of years ago the same thing happened in reverse - I was the stranger who helped someone in distress. A lady visiting her ill mother in a nursing home stopped me one day on the street and needed to talk. Again the connection was instant and over the course of several weeks it became apparent that I had something which could help her overcome her anxiety. Attention, interest, a demeanour that made her feel that I was wiser than perhaps I actually am.
Lovers engage the romantic desire we crave - the hope of being loved and cherished. But as people, we are infinitely more powerful than we believe. Not because we are better but because we offer a type of sustenance to weary souls. We are all frazzled from the daily grind of living and sometimes it can feel that there is no light at the end of the tunnel and that the future is bleak. To quote my best friend, at our age all we can do is reminisce because there really is nothing to look forward to. She's right and wrong. If we manage to get to our age and still be capable of showing empathy and kindness to others we have won the stakes in the lottery of life. Once we understand how much we can mean to others by showing them attention and thoughtfulness towards their predicament, then we are fulfilling our prophecy as human beings. If collectively whole continents could harness such a force it would be for the good of all where no one would feel lonely, isolated and tormented by the things they cannot change. Each of us is a ray of light in a world becoming shrouded in darkness.
Someone once said to me that I make others happy. It took me a while to understand that there is a symbiosis between people which makes us relevant to each other. No matter how down or out we may feel or fearful of the future, it is worth remembering that someone else is having a worse time. We can't change the world but we can make small steps which in turn will have far-reaching consequences. So open yourself to the possibility that someone will be sent to help when your world is falling apart. And be that person for somebody else. The person who could change the direction of a heart.
Photo copyright S. van Dalen