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        14 July 1999 
           "It seems the heart is not something which can be forced, in other words, you can’t force the heart. Therefore, like seasoning a Creole stew you don’t add the best ingredients until just before the end; and neither does life give our hearts the most precious information until we’re close to being through on earth. We’ve had to experience the heat of the fire, the whirlpools of life’ stirring commotion at length, until finally, we are able to lay all aside and say honestly from the heart "teach me." The truths can’t be forced upon us, we have to come to a place where we will embrace them. Truths much more worthy than anything natural we’ve known. 

           "The beginning of an answer to this came to me when I was only twelve years old, though I didn’t realize the lesson until probably just a few months ago when discovering my illness. I had gone to a nursing home with a youth group from my church. Frankly, I was there under duress (my mother). I stood before this ancient-looking woman, holding a bouquet of crepe paper flowers. Everything about her saddened me - the worn-down face, the lopsided grin, the tendrils of gray hair protruding from a crocheted lavender cap. I thrust the bouquet at her. She looked at me, a look that pierced me to the marrow of my twelve-year-old bones. Then she spoke the words I haven’t forgotten in 35 years. "You didn’t want to come here, did you child?" 

           The words stunned me. They were too painful, too powerful, too naked in their honesty. "Oh yes, I wanted to come," I protested. 

           A smile lifted one side of her mouth. "It’s okay," she said, "you can’t force the heart." 

- William C. Payton 


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