you & me

Be the Change & Heal This Planet.

The Heart of the Matter is the title of one of my favorite Don Henley tunes, a beautiful song about forgiveness. However, there is so much more to this phrase.

Since last week, in the wake of another series of shootings, my heart is broken again. I cannot separate myself from the pain that is present all around us. A mother’s tears over a lost son stream down my own cheeks. The violence between races fills me with sorrow. The rift in our country makes me afraid, and leaves me feeling helpless. I don’t want to feel these things, but it is not a choice. A heart open to love is also open to receive pain.

Once when I was a young girl, I remember being at a friend’s house, where there were several of us hanging out that day. I remember the conversation turning ugly, mean things being said about others, and it made me so sad that I left the group, went into the kitchen, and sat at the table with my friend’s mom. She told me, “You are not like the others. You are a peacemaker.”

I didn’t really understand what she meant back then, but could tell from the love and adoration in her eyes that it was a good thing, and yet a cross that I would have to bear.

Yesterday I called a friend of mine to talk about the hateful incidents going on in our country. He is a black man, and I just needed to hear his perspective. He grew up in LA, immersed in the gangs and violence, and carries bullet scars as a permanent reminder of that life that he chose to leave behind, to choose love as a way of life instead. We both agreed that it is a choice we all need to make.

And even if it means getting hurt in the process of having an open heart, it is still the right thing to do. Open your heart and let love pour out.

I work with young children, and as a part of my job, I try to be the best example of Love that I can be. When they are hurt, I try to take away that pain from them. When they act unkindly to others, I try to show them a better way. When they are struggling, I try to give them peace.

As a musician, I have been given a beautiful opportunity to share the healing power of songs. I sing songs of hope and joy to the seniors in an assisted living home. Songs of life to the families at the farmer’s market. In bars, I share songs of love and loss, knowing that we are all broken, but when I sing with tears falling from my eyes, I hope that there is a message in my words… I understand your pain because I feel it too.

I cannot change what has happened in Orlando, or Dallas, or other places far away, but I can change the small part of the world where I live, by touching the lives of those I come in contact with. By keeping my heart open. To not judge by the color of someone’s skin, but see them for what they are inside. To not let a person’s past stop me from pouring love into the person they are now. These are the ways in which we can heal this planet. This is the heart of the matter: Love.


RishellGravesRishell Graves is a musician who lives in the Columbia River Gorge of southern Washington, where she finds inspiration and gratitude in the beautiful surroundings. She writes to heal herself and others.


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