A heart full of love

I know this is a topic that I bring up often, but I think it helps to emphasize how very important it is to me.  I care about people.  A lot.  It's not something that I've tried consciously to do.  I don't think it's a skill that I've developed.  I think that I've always felt this way.  As long as I can remember, I've been like this.  Yeah, I suppose I have tried to hone my skills in how I show people that I care about them, but as far as the feelings themselves--the best way I can describe it is that it's inborn.  It's congenital.  I just find that I care about everyone that I meet.

I can't remember if I've shared this story or not, but a few years ago (shortly after we bought the house I'm currently living in) a man knocked at the door.  He introduced himself as homeless and asked if we could take him to the convenience store to get a hot dog.  I found myself wanting to do whatever I could to help this person.  I had no problem letting him into my house and offering him the food that we were eating at the time (which, interestingly enough, he turned down).  Karen was actually rather scared and was kind of upset that I let him into the house.  I didn't see anything wrong with it.  I just wanted to help him out.  I had never see him before and I only saw him once after that, but I felt concern for him.  I wanted him to have a better life than what he had.

Another time, I was walking around near campus and a man stopped his car next to me and asked for gas money.  I didn't hesitate at all in pulling out a $20 bill and giving it to him.  This is actually significant because I almost never carry cash with me, and that particular bill had only been in my pocket a day or two.  Anyway, he said something about having to drive several miles to some city where his wife was having a baby.  It's quite likely that his story was false, and that he was using the money for something other than gas.  But, I did feel a genuine concern for him, and for his wife (who may or may not have existed and may or may not have been having a baby).  In my mind, anyone desperate enough to just stop someone on the street and ask them for money deserves a better quality life than what they're currently living.

In the mail just yesterday, Conrad got a donation request from Africare.  This is actually one of the charities that I talked about in a previous post several months ago, that I had personally looked into and to the best of my knowledge determined that it is a legitimate charity and that it does a good job at actually making the money end up helping people.  As if it weren't clear from the name, they specialize in humanitarian efforts in Africa.  The mailer that they sent to Conrad included lots of rather startling information about how many people in Africa suffer from very preventable diseases--TB, malaria, HIV, etc.  It was so sad to hear about all of this suffering.  So many children die because they don't have the nutrition or the medical attention they need to be healthy.  And hearing things like this makes me want to open up my pockets and just pour everything I can into efforts such as this one.  I often feel like a hypocrite--living in a nice, big house; able to purchase more than enough food for myself and Conrad; driving around in a car; and so forth--when I know that other people in the world don't even have food to eat or clothes to wear.  They don't even have the medical attention they need to prevent diseases that if anyone here in America contracted, people would say "I didn't think that disease still existed." because our medicine is so advanced it's never a worry for us.

When I meet someone for the first time, I instantly think of them as a friend.  I want them to like me, and I want to do what I can to make our relationship a good and enjoyable one.  I am deeply hurt when someone doesn't like me.  There are several people who "unfriended" me (in real life, not just Facebook) years ago and I still think back on those experiences and wonder what I could have done to preserve the friendship and make them still like me.  In some cases, I have made contact with such ex-friends and have renewed the friendship.  The exhilaration I feel when this happens is enormous.  I love making new friends, keeping old friends, and re-making friends with ex-friends.  It makes me happy.

When I learn about a problem that a friend is having--a difficult time, a challenging relationship, family problems, financial problems, etc--I want to help out.  There have been several occasions when I have given large sums of money (by my standards) to close loved ones in need of support, and I have been happy to do so.  I would give more if I had more.  And I have never regretted any of these donations that I have ever made.  I have spent hours at a time on the phone listening to a friend that needed an ear.  I love hearing about people's problems.  I never know what to say or how to fix the problem, but most often they just need someone to unload all their cares on, not someone to mend them.  I am flattered when someone feels that they can trust me to the point where they will tell me what is troubling them.  Sometimes I give advice (even when it's not asked for) and I do so only because I feel their pain and I want to make their situation better.

Every time I grade a stack of papers--whether it's homework, quizzes, or tests--I am elated when a student gets a perfect (or near-perfect) score.  I am distraught when a student gets a poor score.  And when it is a stack of papers with a very low average (which isn't all too infrequent), it weighs very heavily on my heart.  In fact, many times, I cannot continue grading because it hurts so much.  I have to go do something else--watch a movie, play a game, or eat a meal--and then come back when I'm in a more amiable mood.  When I see a mistake on a student's paper, I just hurt inside because I can see that the student isn't understanding what I'm teaching them and it torments me to see that.  Yes, part of it is because I worry that I'm just not adequate as a teacher, but it's mostly because I want so much for all of my students to understand the material.  I truly do care about them--not just about them doing well in the course, not just about them feeling good about their score, but about them actually understanding the material that I'm teaching.  I see a student working ever so hard to try to understand how a particular formula works and despite all their efforts, the understanding is beyond their grasp.  This pains me to witness.  I want to reach out to them and help them see, and I want to improve my teaching skills so that I can reach more students.

There have been people in my life that have hurt me so deeply that I felt it necessary to remove them from my life.  This has been extremely difficult.  Fortunately, most of the people that I ceased talking to for a time, I have been able to forgive and re-open lines of communication.  As I said before, this makes me very happy to reforge old friendships.  When someone tells me that they do not want to talk to me anymore, it hurts very deeply.  But, because I have felt that feeling myself, I can have empathy for them and I can understand what would make them feel that way.  I do not hold it against them.  If they ever do change their mind and wish to talk to me again, I will welcome them back gladly.

Call me a fool.  Call me a sucker.  Say that I let people manipulate me.  Say what you will.  My heart feels for people, and it always will.  I love people, and I love loving people.  It is not just a hobby, it is not just a characteristic.  It is a way of life.  It is the very core of my being.  And I want people to know that.  I want people to feel that I care about them.  I want people to know what is in my heart.  With all of the pain and the suffering in the world, with all of the evil that is committed and spoken, I want to do all that I can to relieve it.  I want to combat evil.  I want to heal pain.  I want to restore that which is broken and lost.  I want people to feel loved and accepted, no matter who they are and what they've done.