Handle With Care: Fragile Hearts

Before I was born, my parents lived in Okinawa while my dad served in the Air Force. On a special trip to Tokyo, my mom eyed a beautiful doll and my dad seeing how much it meant to her, purchased it. This ornate, incredibly fragile doll was displayed in their first home and then traveled thousands of miles back to the US where it graced the mantle of our fireplace. As the light reflected on her, she seemed to look down on me with different expressions. I very much wanted to play with her, but she was off limits to my clumsy five-year-old hands.

I knew this and left her alone, but for some reason, I decided to take a closer look. My small hands reached over my head so I could personally inspect the glass face and the colors of her costume. Unfortunately I couldn't reach and hold at the same time and I dropped her on the hearth, breaking the doll in several pieces. After the initial shock and scolding that immediately followed, it was my mother's tears that truly hurt me much worse.

I watched from a distance as my mother carefully gathered all the pieces and attempted to glue the irreplaceable doll back together. The intricate doll face now had several glue seams as a visual reminder of that fateful day.

As I considered that long ago broken doll, I recalled an incident that happened when I was 16. My parents had divorced, my mom had moved away. They seldom spoke, avoiding contact—and I was the angry teen in between. My mom came for a visit. I drove over to where she was staying. I had strung a baby pacifier on a necklace and it was dangling on my car rearview mirror.

As she got into the car (which had been hers prior to the divorce) I flippantly told her that if she dared light up a cigarette in MY car she could just snuff it out and suck on the pacifier. Score one for me, I thought. I looked over expecting a retort, and instead saw a look similar to the one I saw years ago when I broke her treasured doll.

Even with my sixteen-year-old bravado, I could see I broke something inside my own mother’s heart. I think this was when I began to take hearts far more seriously. People's hearts may not be visible like the glue seams in a glass doll but the scars are there. Handle with Care.

Those who are closest to us are the easiest to hurt. It may seem like they aren’t broken, but with hearts it’s hard to tell. I learned. Like poet Maya Angelou reflects, people will never forget how you made them feel. And for those we truly love, the choice to hurt them or help them, shouldn’t really be a choice.