I used to view the heart as only a pump driving the body’s plumbing system.  A conversation with my niece Shahara helped clarify how there may be substance to the long-held belief this organ also serves as a spiritual center of our lives.

Folklore certainly imbues a deeper function on this muscle mass with no end of phrases, stories and valentines.  Perhaps it is not mere folklore, maybe the powerful emotion of love does reside in the heart.

When I was 12 my family traveled to Europe to spend the summer camping. At the base of Vesuvius, I met the daughter of a family camping next to us.  I doubt I even talked with this lovely young woman, but the memory of the first wave of romantic love to wash over me is as clear as is the mental snapshot I keep of the outlines of the iconic mountain towering above Naples.  I felt this emotion all over, but it did – and still does – feel as if this overwhelming emotion is centered in my chest.

If you pay close attention, I believe you will sense a heart-to-heart connection when talking with anyone from a friend to the person helping you behind the counter.  In our wonderful community we get to enjoy this personal connection every day when visiting the post office – a connection often initiated with a thank you as another community member holds the door for you.  Don’t you feel just a bit jilted when this small courtesy is not returned and the person passes you by without a friendly hello?

Shahara and I discussed how device-based communication short-circuits this heart to heart connection. The heart depends on physical presence.  A love letter is a start, a hug completes the connection.

This electronic disconnect is everywhere. The self-check out line is a perfect example. I was lost late one evening when stopping at City Market – where no clerk-attended aisle was available.  I always use the regular checkout not only to support human employees, but because I enjoy a short conversation with the person kind enough to work all hours to ensure we are fed.

It pains me to see parents on devices when their children are with them.  I understand this may be just a moment of inattention, but I fear these moments grow to be hours.  While substitute teaching one day at Fraser Elementary I observed a fourth grader who was beyond being just out of control. The young man had absolutely no awareness of his surroundings and his disruptive, angry acting out was constant.

He suffered from a severe case of attachment disorder.  This often-incurable affliction happens to children who are born into care facilities or homes where they are not afforded adequate human contact.  The linguist Noam Chomsky determined the language center of the brain has to physically grow to enable a child to communicate. If a toddler is not exposed to language by the age of five or so, the brain does not grow the language center and the individual never learns to communicate.

Socialization is a learned skill and, I believe, must also physically grow during the early years of childhood. This fourth grader, I would be willing to guess, still suffers from his affliction. “Socialization starvation” may be a part of other all-to prevalent childhood hyperactivity and autism disorders. 

We are social beings.  Three of my friends have passed away over the past three years.  All suffered from various levels of being cut off from their social structure, living their senior years largely without regular human connection.  I look forward to my senior years living in downtown Fraser, where I know – at a minimum – I will say hello to neighbors at the post office every day. 

I enjoy email.  I have a Facebook page but have not engaged with it in years.  I believe my heart will not remain healthy, my being will suffer – if I don’t see, talk to and hug my friends every day.

My wish for the community which has been so kind to me for the past 46 years is for all of us to enjoy the holiday season and every day following by remaining close to our friends, family and to those we say hello to every day.