Thursday, Second Week of Advent
December 11, 2008

"Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart...
Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways." -- Psalm 119:34-37

The Story of Love

I really do love hearing and telling stories. I have always thought of myself as a not-so-great story-teller, but despite this perception, the need to share does not diminish. Listening to others? stories always inspires me to tell my own. This basic human desire to share our histories with each other is, for me, one of the greatest things about being alive. The wish to know people, to fully understand their past and present, and the ways in which they have changed and grown, is a beautiful and indisputably God-given desire.  I think God wants us to know each other, as he wants us to know him. Christmas is about celebrating people and the lives that God has allowed us to live.

So, here is my story?not really my own story, but that of some very special people who shared their stories with me. At this time last year I was just returning to Durban, South Africa after a month-long homestay in a rural village. I was excited to return to running water and electricity, but I was grief-stricken to leave my new family behind. I spent the month living and working with my mama, who is a community health worker, and getting to know her family (who very quickly became my family). We spent the weekdays visiting neighbors, caring for those in poor health, and listening to those who needed to share. Everyday, we collected and told stories.  After work, my family helped me practice Zulu as we sat around the table playing cards. These people, my family, gave me so much and asked for nothing in return. They wanted to help me grow, discover, and understand. I understand now. I understand how important relationships are to survival. I understand the vastness of disparities in our world. I understand why I cannot turn away. I understand that my efforts to help, however small they may seem to me, may make all the difference to those in desperate need. If you can save just one person from breaking, you are truly fulfilling God?s wishes. If we can shine with goodness and open our hearts to others, I see the possibility for a world of light.

When people asked me what wisdom I found while abroad, I say without hesitation that I learned how easy it is to love. I was amazed at how quickly I fell in love with my family and they fell in love with me. I am still amazed at the capacity of the human heart to open so completely to welcome strangers. Everyone is a potential friend. Closing our hearts and minds and being judgmental is easy to do, but the rewards of doing the opposite are limitless.  It is easy to fall into the competitiveness of college, but I urge you not to isolate yourself. This season, remember to open you heart. Let people in. Share yourself, your stories, and listen closely to others, for it is through relationships that we may truly feel and show our capacity to love.

-- Marielle Matthews '09