By John T. Catrett, III

Our hearts have mapped the perfect plan for fulfilling our unique life’s path. Once loss shatters this seeming perfect vision, we may feel hard pressed to come up with a new dream upon which to cast our personal landlines. A very kind, wise, petite lady in her late-fifties said to me last week in church, “I live a simple life so that I can concentrate on what is really important.

” She went on to say that helping others, gardening and taking care of her health were the key ingredients in healing her grieving heart. Just three years prior, she had suddenly lost her husband of 30 years to a heart attack. She had always dreamed that they would grow old together. Now she found herself alone and rebuilding her life without her beloved partner. She then shared with me that she had to learn to find love in new ways, as her entire life had revolved around being a good wife to her husband. She had to acknowledge that a part of her died the day he died.

She mentioned that she had, for a while, isolated herself in her home and wept a lot after his death. Then she tried drinking away the sorrow. Neither of these tactics brought her peace. Finally, she decided to reach out and help an elderly neighbor by giving him a ride to the audiologist. This solitary act of kindness moved her from a place of self-pity about the unfairness of her life and into a place of compassion for others. That simple choice opened a door to healing for her. She began moving from living in the past to being in the present. By giving to another, she started reclaiming her light-heartedness and her life. Today she volunteers regularly at the senior center, and her visits are the highlight of many an elderly resident’s day. She has love in her life although in a form she never expected.

I am sharing this real life story with you because none of us ever anticipate that death, divorce, bankruptcy or ill-health will surprise us and change the course of our life, but they do happen. We may plan to own our home, have children, prepare for retirement or be wildly successful in our career or relationships, and suddenly our destiny changes – maybe even for no reason of our making. Life magically presents us with a turning point. We can become bitter and closed or instead, open and willing to embrace a new dream.

A friend of mine recently rekindled her dream of being a mother. After three failed in-vitro fertilization procedures, she and her husband are moving forward in foster parenting and considering adoption. Through acceptance, they have found new hope. They are ready to dream again.

When life presents us with sudden changes or disappointments, we are pushed to grow beyond our known limits and cope with the unexpected. Untapped strengths emerge and new directions are discovered. We must reinvent ourselves in the face of significant loss. However do we do this? First, we must choose to live rather than to die with the loss of our dream. Next, after we have grieved our loss, we allow our souls to guide us to a new path by opening our minds to situations that can bring love and success into our lives.

We move forward from the past, releasing feelings of failure and loss in exchange for hope and a new sense of purpose. Many times this pivotal point can be the smallest act of kindness becoming a catalyst to this new life.