The Importance of Love: Heather’s Story

loveIn a country where people marvel at your wealth, your beauty, your social status, your material possessions, etc., it’s easy to get wrapped up in trying to continuously impress others. There’s so much focus on social media and receiving instant gratification in the form of “likes” or “followers” or comments or anything else related to social media.

Priorities are getting mixed up. When I post something miniscule on Facebook, such as the weather or what outfit I’m wearing that day, I get a lot more reactions or interactions than when I post about something that I’m truly passionate about, such as social justice, poverty, giving back, etc. When I post about this, I rarely can get anyone to even respond. Is it because people don’t care? Is it because people really do care more about miniscule things than what’s really important?

People are being misguided and distracted by the latest fashion trends or the hottest new hair color. And I’m not going to be the person pointing fingers because I know I’m also guilty of following these fads and caring about them. But in reality, does it matter if I’m on par with the latest fashion trends when I know that there people who can’t even afford to eat that day?

There are millions of people around the world that are struggling to survive through no fault of their own.

But you want to know something? I’ve encountered some of these people through service work and a majority of them are much happier and more joyful than some people I know who are extremely well off. No amount of material possessions will make you truly happy.

Do you know what it takes to be happy? It takes love. That’s it, that’s the biggest key to happiness. To be loved, to be cared for, to have someone else to love–it’s all that really matters. When someone loses the people that they love, or when they no longer feel loved themselves, is when turmoil sets in.

I was recently reminded of the importance of love by my indescribably incredible cousin, Heather. Heather is a rare soul–she is a true child of God and a true beauty, not just on the outside (which of course she is, she’s a Strazza!), but every inch of her exudes beauty and grace.

heather 3In the beginning of the year, Heather was in a horrifying car accident, leaving her with severe brain trauma. Heather was rushed into emergency surgery and spent a few weeks in the ICU. Heather’s mother was keeping us all updated (Ah! A good use for social media) via Facebook, and kept posting about the love that all of her friends and family were giving her. Her family and friends were there every day holding her hand, speaking to her, and playing music for her (a lot of Heather’s life resolves around music–she has the voice of a true angel), even though she was unconscious.

heather 2Heather is making remarkable strides in her recovery, and through all of the inconceivable trauma, vulnerability, and helplessness, she still remains the same beautiful Heather. And despite everything that she’s had to endure, she is now wiser than ever.

A few days ago, her mother posted this on her Facebook:

“Spent yesterday evening with my Heather who dropped such wisdom on us that I’m still digesting it. ‘People don’t realize how important love is. They’re worried about how their hair looks and ‘she’s a bitch’ and things like that. If only they knew that love is all that matters. People coming in and loving me, even when I was unconscious, I could feel it. It saved my life.'”

Wow. The power of love is so awe-inspiring and so amazing. It can, quite literally, save someone’s life.

A lot of the time it takes a serious accident such as Heather’s to make them appreciate life, but Heather was living and loving life long before that. For as long as I’ve known her (24 years now!) she has been the most loyal follower of God and the most selfless person. For instance, for Christmas this year (prior to her accident), she donated to different charities in honor of each of her family members. Her mother posted this:

Heather gave each of us a wonderful note about a donation to help the poor and mine was the gift of clean water. We all cried with joy as each read about their chicken or sheep … When I saw that mine was water I cried like a baby, too. The card below is my gift… and the magic of Christmas was magnified, not diminished, by the fact that someone else was receiving it.”

heather 1Wouldn’t the world be a whole lot more wonderful if we all had this attitude and love for other people?

I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by extraordinary love my entire life. My parents worked hard to give me an amazing childhood, to put me through a prestigious high school and a college that changed my life. My sister has supported every crazy dream I’ve ever had (and there’s a lot) and has followed me every step of the way. The rest of my extended family has shown me unconditional love and respect. My boyfriend has supported me and cared for me for the past two and a half years of my life. And lastly, but definitely not least, I have the best friends in the entire world, I’m sure of it (shout out to Weaver and 572).

Of course I’ve experienced losses and tough times, but because of the love and laughter that constantly surround me, I could not love life any more than I do. It has strengthened me, it has carried me through tough times, it has made me have faith in myself.

Love is the most powerful gift you can give someone and the most rewarding gift you can receive.

We should all take notes from my true hero, Heather, on how to love. Love yourself, love your friends, love your family, love strangers. Just love. If you give it out, it will most certainly be returned. And one day, the love could save your life.



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