“The Heart Of Life”
“There’s things you need to hear, so turn off your tears and listen.”
I have wanted to be a part of the To Write Love on Her Arms internship program for a long time now … like, a looong time. I first heard about TWLOHA on MySpace (yes, I was one of those kids), and my interest grew from there. After seeing Jamie Tworkowski speak at a little music store down the road from my house when I was 16 years old, I knew that working with TWLOHA was in my future. Since then, I’ve finished high school, university and hopped on my first international flight to end up in Melbourne, FL as an intern this spring.
A big part of our job here as interns is replying to messages. They vary in content, length, and sender, but they all have one thing in common: a whole lot of heart. Whether it’s someone sharing their own story, writing on behalf of a family member or friend, or just wanting to help TWLOHA, the messages we get are an opportunity to share life with people, and it’s a privilege.
However, sometimes I’ll read a message of loss, grief, or pain—and the words hit with a force never felt before.
“You know it’s nothing new, bad news never had good timing. Then the circle of your friends will defend the silver lining.”
I knew that replying to messages would be a big part of my job before I got here, and it was the part that I was most excited for. It was also the part of the internship that made my Mum the most nervous. Despite the fact that I’d be on the other side of the planet, having to look after myself, battling confused looks when people try and understand my Australian accent, Mum was most worried about my heart. I have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve, and while a lot of the time that’s a good thing, it does make it easy to get hurt. Having the chance to read words that are sent to us is an honor, but sometimes, when message after message is filled with pain and sorrow, it begins to take a toll on your heart.
It’s times like these I truly value the emphasis TWLOHA puts on community. Since mid-January, I have been living with five other interns whom, apart from a few Facebook messages, I hadn’t even spoken to before last fall. Since moving in together, we have not only become friends, but sounding boards, shoulders to cry on, and trusted advisors on pretty much every subject life can throw at us.
When applying for the internship, you have to explain what community looks like to you. My immediate reaction was to print off a photo of “the Greendale Seven”, but I now know that community is so much more. It’s so much more than “people coming together,” so much more than having a common goal. It’s sharing life.
“No, it won’t all go the way it should, but I know the heart of life is good.”
So while the messages we see and the work we do at TWLOHA can be heavy, it only takes one good message to remind us why we are here. When someone opens up for the first time, seeks the treatment they deserve, or finally sees the precious value their life holds, it is a silver lining. It reminds us our hearts really are both heavy and light.