I do things with my whole heart, and I can’t even help it. It really doesn’t matter what I’m doing; I am most often fully engaged and all-in.

If my sixth grader asks for help with her math homework I will need to stop making dinner, checking my email, or petting the dog. At the very least, I will need a pencil in my hand, and probably scrap paper, or a calculator, or a YouTube video to help me figure it out. For even the most minor calculations, I will sit down and focus.

If I want to have a conversation with someone, or they with me, I feel it is important, again, to sit down, and if possible, be across from the person. I want to see their eyes, posture, and body language. I delight in the little fidgety things people do with their napkin, a stray wisp of hair, or the cuff on their sleeve. I like to be present with a person. If I must talk with someone on the phone, it feels important to me to set a time when I know I can focus on them, and listen with my best ear and one mind.

I am very bad at multitasking. It is hard for me to wash the dishes, pick up toys, or paint my nails while talking on the phone. I want to attend to a person’s words with my whole heart.

How about if I say I care about the earth? This feels very much like something I want to do with my whole heart. I want to minimize my family’s footprint in every way we can. I want to recycle all possible items. I want to drive less, and fly less, plant more trees, and eat locally. My family eliminated straws from our life. And, I refuse to let my kids carry their snacks to school in ziplock bags no matter how cute or convenient it is, and despite the fact that my son has made a nuisance of himself with towering stacks of little containers on his desk that he cannot remember to bring home at night. Oh, boy! If we are talking creation care, the ways to fully engage the subject are endless.

These seem to be rather small, but correct, examples of how I do things with my whole heart. I want to call this whole “with my whole heart” thing something awesome like passion. In fact, I do think you can say that I am passionate. I am engaged. I am worth your while when I am contributing to the subject with my whole heart.

I keep thinking about a Brandi Carlile concert that I attended a number of years ago, though what I observed there could likely be observed at any concert, by any one of your favorite bands or musicians. Toward the end of a very exceptional concert with a very alive and euphoric audience, the opening chords of a crowd favorite trickled across the stage. Pleasure rippled through the venue. The passion and energy of the music seemed visible and tangible as Brandi and her band members immersed themselves in a song they loved. Music took over them. There was apparent, unstoppable bliss in making that music and it pulsed through the audience.

Brandi was playing and singing with her whole heart, and we were there soaking it up with our whole hearts. That is the thing about this kind of passion; when you extend your heart like this, the best kind of moment is made even better and more complete when your whole heart is received by someone else’s whole heart. There is reciprocity. And, where my passion meets yours, the passion only grows. That is the moment that I love, and that is why I live the way I do.

I do things with my whole heart because I want that passion to be received. Passion makes a difference in the world. I help with sixth grade math homework with my whole heart because learning to work through problems is hard, but important. I give my whole heart to a conversation because being seen and heard matters, and everyone wants to matter. I dedicate my whole heart to as many earth-friendly practices as possible because I want, if nothing else, for my children to see, hear, care for, and enjoy God’s good creation as much as I’ve ever been able to- if not more.

So, I think you see it now, the way that I am passionate about things and that there is even some intention guiding my passionate ways. Some of you may be like me, giving your best to the world, not able to stop yourself from sharing your whole heart; always pouring out. I’m glad to see you in the crowd with me. I believe in our power to offer good and change the world.

And, because I want to benefit from your good, and you from mine, I offer one caution. In living so wildly, fully, and with your whole heart, give it all you’ve got, but don’t break your heart.

There have been times when I’ve thought I was doing my best, with my whole heart, as though I were a rock star wailing on my guitar and belting songs into a raucous crowd. I saw my passion and my pouring out as evident and effective. But then, once in awhile I found that I was missing the crowd, all the people who I expected to enthusiastically respond to my passionate outpouring. Instead, I was there doing something with my whole heart that no one received. There was no one there to mirror or revive my passion. If I don’t pay attention, I sometimes find that I am not the rock star I imagined I was, but rather I’m a tube of toothpaste with every last bit of paste squeezed out until fully wasted and nearly broken.

Our long-lasting passionate ability to do something with our whole heart arises out of the welcome, even lively responsiveness of the company around us. We let our whole heart shine because we believe there is someone that needs that glow, and they might be made different because of it, but if no one is there to receive or respond to your heart’s outpouring, you are pouring yourself out for nothing. Guard your heart.

I am learning to give with my whole heart without breaking my heart. Passion is thrilling and good, and it can be wonderfully contagious, but if you give your passion away without a proper recipient, eventually there is no passion leftover, nothing left to share.

If you are in this place, or approaching this place, where maybe your passion burns dim or your heart is kind of broken, remember this is not about emptying your passion, but sharing your passion. I hope that you can find an audience that shares the passion of your song so that your passion will be stoked, revived, and come ablaze again.

Katy Sundararajan

Katy Sundararajan lives in Holland, Michigan with her husband and two children, but she has left her heart in a whole host of places called home. She values thoughtful writing that allows us to ponder something small and recognize in it, something big

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