The Heart Bank

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Because we’re usually the first to arrive on an emergency scene, a big part of a fire fighter’s job is to be well trained in emergency procedures, medical terminology, and anatomy.

Having spent over twenty-eight years driving fire trucks, I will admit that last Friday was the first time I became familiar with the most delicate part of a human body — so delicate that a single look can shatter it. Welcome, Dear Reader, to The Heart Bank.

Unless you are in the medical profession, the heart is not typically visible to the human eye. But each person has another heart, one that can’t be made visible by any machine. Full of feelings and love, the scars from this heart being broken can run deep and can be everlasting. Strong, yet so fragile, it can be broken over and over, and no amount of medical training can heal it. It can’t be splinted or stitched back together, and no medicine can make it well. Only one thing can.

Love.

They didn’t teach us how to fix a broken heart during our medical training, nor did we carry the cure in our emergency medical bags or on the fire truck. I learned about it by accident while eating lunch at one of our local elementary schools.

I didn’t tell our granddaughters that I’d be at their school for a few hours helping their art teacher. Sitting at a table in the back of the room, I waited for Sweet Caroline’s class to file in, knowing she would be surprised to see me.

As she entered the room, she yelled, “What the heck! Papa! What are you doing here?” Running over, she gave me such a tight hug I almost couldn’t take a breath to answer. I told her I was only at school for a little while helping, but then had to go because I had lots of things to do. That’s when she released her hug and asked with sad eyes, “Can you stay and eat lunch with me, pleeeease?”

The decision was made instantly, one of the easiest I made all day. At that moment there was nothing more important than spending an extra half hour to make that little girl happy. My “Of course, I will” prompted another hug even tighter than the first. I’ve never seen someone actually walking on air, but that day our Sweet Caroline did. I watched as she floated back to her seat full of anticipation and joy of spending lunchtime with her Papa.

Lunch soon came, and her teacher had set aside a small table just for us. And if I were to be honest, I don’t really remember what I had to eat, but the sight of her happiness and what she did next, I’ll never forget.

Right after we sat down, another child from her class asked if she could join us. To my surprise Sweet Caroline said, “Of course you can.” When lunch was over, Sweet Caroline left the lunchroom as she’d left the art room earlier, walking on air with happiness. She also left something else — a question in my mind. Why did she let the other girl join us for lunch?

When The Wife got home that evening, she noticed what a good mood everyone was in, so I related this story. She replied, “What you did made a huge deposit in her heart bank. She will be able to draw on it in the future when she is sad and know that someone truly loves her.”

And what of the girl Sweet Caroline let sit with us during our special lunch? She told me the little girl doesn’t have a daddy to come eat lunch with her. She thought it was a good idea to share her Papa. I asked her how that made her feel, and her answer was the reason for this story, “It made my heart feel good.”

We all have a heart bank, and it’s up to each of us to fill our own banks and the banks of others. Good deposits result in a return ten times over. Unfortunately, so do the bad. Which will you make?

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]