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How's Your Heart?

My version of a story originated by Rev. Barbara Marshman. This is one of those stories that you have to make your own (in other words, you probably will want to change the story below). Barbara used to bake heart-shaped cookies for every child, and end the story by saying that the children were all "good cookies" and giving them each a cookie. As you will see, I end the story in a different way. And you probably will not want to tell about my grandmother. However you do it, you'll have to cut out the paper hearts ahead of time.


Valentine's Day is coming up. The heart has become the symbol of Valentine's Day, and we send Valentine's Day cards with red paper cut-outs in a shape that we call heart-shaped.

As you know, your heart really isn't made out of red paper. You know where your heart is, right? Your heart is right here in your chest. Your heart is mostly a muscle, it's about the size of your fist, and it pumps blood all through your body. Perhaps you have listened to someone's heartbeat through a stethoscope: "bu-bump, bu-bump, bu-bump." So that's what your heart really is: it's an organ in your body that pumps blood.

But we like to think that our feelings come from our hearts. Maybe this is because when you're excited your heart beats quickly, or when you feel relaxed, your heart beats slowly. And we like to think that when someone is in love, their heart beats quickly every time they see the one they love. Our hearts and our feelings seem to work together.

Now when I was a little child, my grandmother would say things that I didn't quite understand. She would describe other people, and talk about their hearts. I wasn't quite sure what she meant. For example, when she thought someone was an especially kind and good person, she would say, "Oh, he has a heart of gold." If you think about it, that old expression makes sense: if our hearts seem to be where our feelings are, and if someone is so good they are as good as gold, why then it makes sense to say that person's heart is as good as gold. But when I was a little child, here's how I imagined it:

[Show a heart cut out of gold paper]

Sometimes my grandmother would talk about a different kind of person, a person who didn't seem to have the normal kind feelings that human beings have. She would say, "Oh, that person has a heart of stone." And when I was a little child, here's how I imagined it:

[Show a heart made out of stone]

Of course, no one wants to have a heart of stone!

When my grandmother knew someone who was warm and good, who was always ready to help other people, she might say, "Now that's someone who is warm-hearted." And this is how I imagined warm-hearted:

[Show a heart with a fire burning in it]

Or there might be someone who had enough love for everyone, whom my grandmother would call "big-hearted." Here's how I saw that in my mind's eye:[Show a bigger heart than the others]

If you show your feelings easily, my grandmother might have said that you "wear your heart on your sleeve." And here's how I imagined that:

[Place a small heart on your sleeve]

There was even an old song with words about "stout-hearted men" who would make the world a better place. You can just imagine how I thought that looked:[Show a stout-shaped heart]

Every year, Valentine's day comes just two days after Abraham Lincoln's birthday. In the old days, people like my grandmother used to call Abraham Lincoln the "Great Heart," because he worked tirelessly to free the slaves in the United States. Of course you know how I imagined "great heart" when I was little:[Show the biggest heart of all]

A "Great Heart" is someone who really makes a difference in the world. A "Great Heart" is someone who believes that love is the most powerful force in the universe, who lives their lives as if that's true, and who makes the world a better place through their love. A month ago we celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and he too was a Great Heart. And the month before that, we celebrated the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth, and some people say he had the greatest heart of all.

I like to imagine that all of us could become Great Hearts. You just have to try to be the best person you can be. I'll bet you could become a Great Heart if you tried. Just thinking about it, I'll bet you can feel your heart growing...[Show a heart that is folded so that it can expand]

...just like this!