On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake leveled the island nation of Haiti. In Haiti, it broke buildings and bodies and everything in between. Around the world, it broke hearts. And in my neighborhood, one family made a decision that is changing the world.
They decided to tell their six-year-old children about the tragedy.
They made the gutsy decision to let their children in on the pain of the world.
They decided to trust the heart of a child.
And they simply resolved to say “Yes” to whatever beauty poured forth.
One evening, after bedtime prayers, the kids decided they wanted to rebuild one home for one family in Haiti. So, their parents said, “Yes.” They did research, and they found out the cost of building one home in Haiti is $2500. With fear and trepidation, they devised a fundraiser and set out to raise the money.
The money began to trickle in. Then it began to pour in. Then one family offered to match the funds that were raised. And then a second family offered to do the same.
In a few short months, two kindergarteners with hearts of compassion and two parents saying “Yes” raised $37,500 to build homes in Haiti.
In case you’re counting, that’s fifteen Haitian families with a brand new roof over their heads.
The Beautiful Thing About Heart Strings
But here’s the thing about heart strings and the beautiful music they play—the song of compassion likes to put itself on repeat.
When hearts break with compassion, they don’t break apart, they break open.
Next, the children had their hearts broken open by orphans. The parents simply said, “Yes,” and they spent a year raising money for orphans in our hometown. Tonight, orphans in my hometown will be lulled to sleep in rocking chairs purchased by two grade school kids and their parents saying “Yes.”
And then, in the last year, the children discovered that, for one American dollar, a person in Africa could drink clean water for one year. One year. This time, the family decided to partner with other people who are saying “Yes.” They teamed up with Blood:Water Mission and its campaign, Lemon:Aid Stand.
In May of 2013, they hosted a stand in their front yard.
It raised hundreds of dollars. Hundreds of African men, women, and children drinking clean water for a year.
When we start saying “Yes” to our beautiful hearts, we discover our stories have chapters we could never have fathomed. The family was then invited to team up with local businesses to host another stand in July 2013. Then, the very next month, they were asked by a local Starbucks to host a stand, and Starbucks offered to match whatever funds were raised. It was a joyful event, with crafts and baked goods and live music and a local radio station and, of course, lemonade.
The event raised $11,500. Almost twelve thousand people drinking clean water for a year.
I went to the event.
I have a reminder of it sitting in my living room.
A Sign of Our Beauty
At the Lemon:Aid fundraiser, there was a table full of hand-painted signs created by the family and their friends. Most of the signs were brightly colored, and each sign contained a word to match the vibrant hues—words like hope and joy and faith.
But sitting right in the middle of the table was a sign that looked completely out of place. It was small—thin and long—and instead of bright colors, it was covered in a single coat of white paint. And the letters were created by exposing the natural surface beneath the paint—the letters were formed out of the essence of the wood, rather than a bright layer of paint over the natural grain.
The letters looked rough and messy, burnt and scratched and worn.
The letters formed the word BEAUTIFUL.
I bought that sign.
I bought that sign because I need to be reminded our true beauty does not come from all the artificial layers of bright glitz and shiny glamour we slather on ourselves. Real beauty doesn’t come from aisles of makeup or designer jeans or six-pack abs or the latest iPhone or pristine lawns or Photoshopped Christmas cards. Real beauty doesn’t come from how brightly colored we appear and how loudly we proclaim the right words or ideas.
Our real beauty is what emerges through all the layers of paint and image we slather on.
Our real beauty is the shape of what emerges when we simply pay attention to who we are—when we behold our tender hearts and the compassion that resides there.
Our real beauty is what happens when we say “Yes” to the grace and the love and the humanity we find lying just beneath the surface of our carefully crafted personas.
Now, when I sit on the couch and I look at that sign, I’m reminded of a family who is becoming more who they already are—five brilliant souls with a heart for creating beauty, order and abundance in this world.
They aren’t different than you or me.
They aren’t better than the rest of us.
They are scratched and worn and messy like everyone else. But they have found the shape of their beauty within that, and they are simply saying “Yes” to it.
So, should you start a lemonade stand? No, not necessarily. Lemon:Aid has been the shape of their beauty.
But they are not you.
Only you are you.
Only you contain the shape of your beauty beneath all the bright, distracting paint.
Only you can allow the natural grain of who you are to emerge.
Only you can be beautiful you.
The question is: Are you ready to say “Yes” to your BEAUTIFUL?
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
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Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.