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Posted By Opening the Heart

Midsummer eve the air was rich and thick with life. The sultry smell of honeysuckle infused our yard while fireflies danced like blinking polkadots on the dark blue fabric of night.  Night birds sang in the trees and  bullfrogs answered  from the pond in a subtle but discernible underlying rhythm.

midsummer night creatures
Midsummer night took me back to another time in my life when I attended college in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The air there was also heavy and sweet but the smells and sounds were those of a tropical island.Honeysuckle was replaced by the smell of ripe bananas on the tree and the constant sounds of small frogs called coqui interpenetrated rainforest nights.

In spite of transportation, the island was then culturally quite different from the Puerto Rican subcultures found in U.S. cites. Puerto Rico itself at that time was still in the process of moving away from it’s agrarian past into a more industrialized future.  However it had not lost touch with its roots. The extended family reigned supreme and despite the island’s inevitable and unique problems, the culture was full of heart.

I saw heart on the city buses when I rode across from someone with a birth defect or handicap.  No one seemed to pay it any mind unless the person needed help and then it was given. I saw heart in the delight taken in children, in the respect towards elders and the in the aged cared for at home. I saw heart when bank tellers or other professionals looked into my eyes and connected with me – not rare or special events but simply as a matter of course.

I remember “The General”. He was a fixture in Old San Juan when I was in school.  He would stand in the traffic-tangled main plaza at rush hour every day in full military regalia directing traffic. Although he likely had mental health challenges he was not arrested or put away somewhere. He was a beloved part of the community. It seems no one would think to interfere with him. He belonged, had found his niche and was giving to others in his own way.

Contrast this with my own trip to Costa Rica earlier this year as a medical advocate for a friend seeking treatment out of the country.  While in Costa Rica her handicap was met everywhere with extreme kindness and compassion. Once we got on the airplane bound for Boston the story changed.  She could not walk up the aisle on the airplane very fast because of her disability, I was slow because of the amount of medical equipment I was carrying.  Instead of kindness we were looked at with impatience, anger and even hostility. Not one person asked if we needed any help.

My midsummer night’s dream is for the courage to be kind. Courage means to take heart, and the source of the courage to be kind comes from the heart.  My midsummer night’s dream is that all who are vulnerable because of infirmity, age, perceived difference, bad circumstance or other condition are met with kindness every day and that because of misfortune no one feels isolated or ostracized or left out of the circle.

I look at the homeless on our streets and at the many people who are put in institutions because perhaps no one knows quite what to do with them and I see ample opportunities for my own kindness to grow.

My midsummer night’s dream is, (to paraphrase Kate Wolfe’s song)  "love will make a circle that holds us all inside where strangers are as family and loneliness can’t hide.”

We do this quite well in the Opening the Heart workshop.  My midsummer night’s dream is that we are able to do this every day.