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Essay: An understanding heart

Solomon was a kid, but he was already wise.

In the first book of Kings, God appears to the boy-king, saying, “Ask something of me, and I will give it to you.”

Solomon doesn’t ask for money or revenge or a long life. What he wants is “an understanding heart.”

I like that. If I have an understanding heart, I open myself to those around me. I’m able to see them — really see them — and hear them. And I’m able to let them see and hear me. I’m present to them, one human to another.

It’s easy to be irritated by other people. If I’m in the Loop and hurrying to a meeting, the wandering, lollygagging tourists who block the sidewalk can be annoying. But, come on, I do the same thing when I’m strolling around Manhattan on vacation.

Irritation is a natural human feeling, but an understanding heart doesn’t get stuck in that bile. An understanding heart sees the world in context — sees people in context.

An understanding heart expects good from people rather than bad, opts for hope rather than cynicism.

And how do I rise above spitefulness and venom? I don’t do it alone. I do it by watching how good people with understanding hearts go about their days.

And I do it with God’s grace.

I don’t know about you, but I find within myself when I’m at that point of deciding whether to be ornery or kind, there is something ineffable that gets involved — if I let it.

That’s God’s grace, I think — there for me if I’m wise enough to want it.

Patrick T. Reardon


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