November 9, 2017
The first time I experienced The Power of the Heart was during the coldest winter of my life. Though on the outside, the streets of Boston weren’t covered in much more snow than usual, the icy chill I felt came from within a frostbitten heart.
During this winter, I was keeping up appearances as a student leader and was doing very well academically, but internally I was caught in a web of constant anxiety, lack of self-worth, and the uncertainty of where my future was going.
Though I had done well in my studies, I knew that my field of baking was not where I truly wanted to be, but I was stuck in who I perceived myself to be versus who I really wanted to be. I felt bitter and resented many of those around me who seemed to know exactly what they were doing. Feeling this way caused me to push away those I had loved and, instead, seek approval from those who were considered ‘thrill-seekers.’
During this period, I had the great opportunity to take part in my second student leadership retreat with my college. Previously we focused on Paulo Coelho’s work The Alchemist and I was excited to see where the next lesson would take us... The keynote of this retreat was the screening of the film The Power of the Heart. Having never heard of the film, I was excited to learn that we would be one of the first groups on the East Coast to screen it, and I felt optimism about the film’s focus on heart-centered growth and finding purpose. Instinctually, I felt that the film would act as a catalyst for my life and for my healing, but I had no real idea how much it would come to impact me on many levels.
Throughout the entire film, I was unable to keep a dry eye. Themes of forgiveness, compassion, self-worth and the practice of being alive struck a nerve that had not completely frozen over. Like the branches on the trees outside in the sun, I too felt myself begin to thaw.
After the screening of the film, the other student leaders and I sat in silence, unable to comprehend what we had just witnessed. For a group of almost sixty ranging in age, mostly in their twenties, to be this silent for so long was quite an accomplishment, and when we finally reached a point where we could speak, many of us were still too stunned by how hopeful we felt.
After this retreat, the students who had been impacted by the film took the messages back to the main campus in Charlestown, Massachusetts. While a group of honors students used the film as a vessel for change within the campus walls (including screening the film twice and inviting Baptist de Pape to speak), I personally began using the messages in my own life and found myself beginning a true path to recovery and healing. Though the process of recovery has not always been an easy one, by utilizing the message of The Power of the Heart, I feel as though things have become a little less bumpy.
One standout moment for me in the film was the telling of Immaculée Ilibagiza’s extraordinary tale of resilience and forgiveness. In seeing her story play out so vividly, I became aware of the privilege I have experienced in my lifetime. While I have also gone through hardship, none of those hardships come close to what she has experienced, and I took her message of self-preservation and appreciation as a lesson in gratitude that I have never shaken.
In the two years that have gone by since first seeing the film, and reading the book, I have found myself becoming a new person. No longer do I feel resentment towards those who have a better sense of where they are headed, for now I too am one of them. No longer do I feel trapped in a field in which I do not belong, for I have had the courage to step outside of my comfort zone and make the changes necessary for growth. I now know that I too can act as a vessel for change, and in a day and age where hate and discontent runs rampant, I hope to continue the message of The Power of the Heart. Though I know this is a process that can be hard, and one that not everyone will benefit from, I feel it is now my purpose to at least attempt to spread the message as well as I can. Messages of love, forgiveness, and compassion are not singular to one religion alone, and I believe that through focusing on these concepts, we can make the world of tomorrow a little less frozen as well.