love heals — but chocolate doesn’t hurt


“There are as many paths to God as there are people.” – Maya Angelou
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately looking inwards. You have to go in to go out, right? I’ve never been a religious person, but I have been a spiritual one. Though I can’t say that I’ve always known what that meant, really. I have always felt that we are all connected on this planet. That there is more that joins us than separates us, even though we are all walking our own paths, on our own journeys. Knowing this and knowing this are two different things. The first is an intellectual understanding, the second is a heart-knowing. I’ve had moments of heart knowings throughout my life, but most of the time I’d say I had an intellectual understanding. 
Our brains often get in the way of our hearts. 
We sit right now on the edge of transformation. I believe it’s why we are seeing so much turmoil in this world. In the U.S., even a pandemic has fueled division as much as it has cohesion. To me, this points to a spiritual struggle within humanity itself. The toughest lessons are the most important ones, and I think that is what this year is for us. One exceptionally tough lesson. Life has a way of bringing about the situations that offer the opportunity to teach us the lessons we need to learn, and it will do so 
           …and time 
                                   …and time
again. Until we learn. And sometimes we need to be hit upside the head with one whopper of a challenge before we reach that ah-ha moment. Before we cease to struggle against a deeper understanding and a deeper meaning. Before we realize that our head has gotten in the way every time, bringing us right back to the same lesson again and again. 
This happens all the time in our individual lives, but I think it happens collectively, too.
When we release the brain trappings and listen to the whispers of the heart, I think we start to heal. When we open our hearts, we give ourselves the space to grow and connect with others in ways that can reveal who we really are underneath the fear, pain, anger, anguish, guilt, and shame that often shape how we operate in this world. 
These are the understandings that have seeded in my heart over the past couple of years, and they’ve blossomed rapidly in the past few months. 
I’m sitting here in Champaign, still, and I’ve let go of the need to try to figure out what is next for me, for this country, for this world. Instead, I’ve spent more time resting in stillness, appreciating the now, and feeling grateful for all the gifts in my life. Those gifts include the tough times because they’ve taught me something valuable, even if it’s taken decades of the same lessons before I caught on.

A couple of days ago, I had the urge to make some cookies. The same cookies I get the urge to make every year when the weather turns colder. And, for some reason, it’s no-bake cookies I want to make. Rich, indulgent, chocolate no-bake cookies. I don’t bake sweet goods. When it comes to dessert, I mostly prefer just a simple bar of dark chocolate. But every fall and winter, I want to make these cookies. I’m sure it is, at least in part, a bit of nostalgia from growing up, as I remember how special it felt to eat these no-bake cookies a few times a year, mostly in the colder months leading up to Christmas. 
The night before I made them, something woke me up in the middle of the night, so I lay awake letting my mind wander. I thought about sharing the cookies, for some reason. It was just a small thing, this thought, but I just felt it was something I wanted to do. I thought perhaps I’d make a double batch. 
When it came time to make them, I found I didn’t have enough of what I needed to make a double batch, so I kind of let the idea of sharing go. 
The next night, however, I saw the campground owners, who have become something akin to family to us, in a way. They are just the kindest people. Really. They’ve got the perfect personalities for operating a campground. I quickly threw together a bag of cookies for them, trying to catch them before they left the neighbor’s, but ended up having to deliver them to their house. The wife opened the door, with her adult son close behind. The husband wasn’t there, but the wife said he’d be absolutely thrilled with the cookies because he’s a sweet fiend. 
There is as much in giving for the giver as there is for the recipient. 
When I got back to the rig, I brought up the thought of sharing these bites of chocolate heaven with a few neighbors that surround us, all of whom we’ve come to know because this small group are regulars every year. Gail smiled, knowingly, and responded, “so, should we give all our cookies away?” I, of course, knew she would be on board right away!
“Yes, we should!” I agreed.
I also added that I wanted to give a couple to these older ladies across from us whom we don’t know. They’re in their late 70s to early 80s, I’d say. We know very little about them because they largely keep to themselves. One of them has recently had hip surgery. They’ve been here for about a month. They don’t smile at people; they don’t really interact at all. But we do know that they are raising two little boys. We know that they are very religious. We know that they are on the opposite side of the political spectrum from either of us. 
I still felt compelled to share with them.
I was in the middle of something, so Gail bagged up cookies for everyone and headed out to deliver them. Just this small gesture was greeted with gratitude and enthusiasm from them all. But the greatest joy was the response from one of the older women. I didn’t get to see any of this, but it made my heart smile when Gail told me what happened.
The woman who answered the door was the one who had had hip surgery. She wasn’t smiling. No. Not at all. Scowling is more like it. Gail apologized for interrupting her night and told her that we’d made some cookies and we just wanted to share some with them. And then the magic happened.
This woman’s entire demeanor shifted. Her face lit up. Her eyes smiled. She had a look of wonder on her face. The corners of her mouth turned upward. 
Thank you,” she said, almost breathlessly, “thank you. This…this is such a blessing. Such a blessing. Thank you.”
She gratefully received the gift. 
But that response…that was our greatest gift. 
We never truly know the path others walk. But when we connect in love, it can bridge the gaps between us, making what would seem great, yawning expanses passable. 
There’s something else. Lately, whenever I cook, I give thanks to the plants that provide me nourishment, and I infuse the food with love as I create each dish. I did the same with those cookies, and then I shared them. It wasn’t just the cookies I shared. It was the love.
So, you see, love truly can heal. It’s what we all need. There isn’t a single one among us who doesn’t need love. 
But, chocolate (infused with love)? Well, that can’t hurt!

Peace. And Love.