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Listen to Your Heart

Listen to Your Heart

By Maria Shriver
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As I was watching the news the other night, I listened as the anchors discussed the court appearance of the Highland Park mass murderer. They said he was “completely unfazed“ when he appeared to hear the charges. I paused, took a breath, and thought to myself, “Wow, how can anyone be 'unfazed' these days, much less someone who decided to murder innocent people at a July 4th parade?”

Imagine being "unfazed" by that. Imagine being "unfazed" by everything that’s going on in our world. Imagine none of it impacting you, touching you, or enraging you.

As for me, I find myself dealing with so many emotions these days that I have to work hard to stay centered and hopeful. Everything fazes me: Highland Park, IL, Uvalde, TX, Buffalo, NY, January 6th and its hearings, the shooting death of Jayland Walker, the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and don't even get me started on the Supreme Court.

And when I listened the other night to recordings of people leaving threatening messages on Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s phone—threatening his wife, his child, and himself—I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” But it’s no joke. It’s dangerous these days to serve our country, to stand up, to speak your mind.

That said, it’s equally dangerous these days to be "unfazed" and unmoved by what’s going on. So many people walk through life numb, removed from their emotions, and there was a time in my life when I did that too. Emotional pain terrified me, and it seemed easier to have a wall up and just not feel anything at all. But when you do that, you miss out on all the good that life has to offer. You miss out on feeling the love, the joy, the awe of life. And life has so much awe to offer us. It truly does.

So that’s where I’m focusing my mind this week: on the good. Sure, I could write about all the terrible things in our country and in our world. Ironically, it’s often easier to write about what’s not working than what is. It’s easier to complain and point fingers. But today, I'm deliberately choosing to focus on the good, because the good rarely gets the attention it deserves. Plus, when everyone focuses on what’s wrong, it leads people to believe that nothing is right in our world. It leads us all to think that everyone is cynical and "unfazed," and that our situation is dire and hopeless. It’s not.

This week as I went looking for the good, I noticed that total strangers raised over $3 million for the family of a little boy who lost both his parents in Highland Park. A total stranger quietly paid for all the funerals in Uvalde. Numerous companies have stepped up to help women who live in states without access to reproductive care get the help they need. The country is actually getting an easily-accessible mental health hotline number in the coming weeks. California's governor even announced that the state will begin making its own low-cost insulin so that the essential diabetes treatment can be more affordable. And President Biden honored numerous Americans with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian award. He honored both Democrats and Republicans (yes, he did). He honored those living (like Simone Biles, Gabby Giffords, and Sister Simone Campbell—see the story on her below) and he honored those who have left us (like Steve Jobs and Senator John McCain). Biden honored Senator McCain, a lifelong Republican, despite the fact that the former senator’s daughter criticizes the president almost daily on social media. That really got my attention. It inspired me to rise above.

Rising above—listening to your heart, following your path and having a purpose larger than yourself—is something we can all focus on. So while the news media focuses on all that is wrong and broken (which should faze us), may we, the People, also try to focus on what is going right, in front of us and all around us. May we focus on all that we agree upon—and there is a lot. The vast majority of us (some call it the exhausted majority, I call it the hopeful majority) want sensible gun reform. The vast majority of us want women to be able to make their own reproductive health decisions. The vast majority of us want to take action against climate change. That gives me hope.

So many people are working hard to create a better, more compassionate world. So many people have taken their own pain and turned it into purpose—people like Gabby Giffords, Fred Guttenberg, the list goes on. So many people work so tirelessly on behalf of others they don’t know, simply because it’s the right thing to do—like the hospital workers and doctors who showed up on a holiday to treat the victims from Highland Park. They did their best. They tried their hardest. They were deeply "fazed" by what they experienced, by what they saw, and they gave their all. Their humanity moved me.

On this day, close your eyes and open your heart. Feel with me all that is out there: the joy, the pain, the heartbreak, the sadness, the rage, and the hope. Allow yourself to be moved by all of it. Don’t be afraid.

Be afraid, instead, of being "unfazed," of not caring, or of becoming numb.

Our present and our future lies in the hands of those who feel big and allow those feelings to drive them to change things for the better. So look around and feel it all. Stay on your path and make sure you have a purpose larger than yourself—one that is for the good of all.

Love, Maria

Prayer of the Week

Dear God, in a world where it's easy to sink into darkness and despair, give me the hope and strength to find the love, the joy, and all the good that life has to offer. Remind me that my purpose is bigger than myself and keep me on the path to building a more compassionate world. Amen.