I am often asked why I begin each teaching and retreat with stories of great triumphs and revelations. The answer is, not because they are impossible, but because they are possible. They convey the power of love, faith, and courage. They speak of the capacity that deep compassion and integrity have to touch the hearts of others and to transform the world. If we read these stories wisely, we will not try to create saints or ideals from their message but will try to discover the same faith, wisdom, and courage within our own hearts.

We would do ourselves a great disservice to use the wisdom and example in these stories as a measure to judge our own imperfections and failings. Rather, these stories can inspire us to see beyond our frailties and doubts, to appreciate the strength and love that lie within us. Each one of us will be profoundly touched by pain, betrayal, and conflict that is part of the human experience. Our capacity to respond with grace and courage is the truth that is expressed in these stories.

There is a place within each of us that is the source of fearlessness, compassion, and integrity. It is this place that inspires us to reach out a hand of comfort to a friend in need, to intervene to prevent the infliction of pain upon another. It is this place that grieves at the pain in our world and rejoices in the happiness and love that is found. When we are vitally connected to our own hearts, we know that all living beings wish to be free from pain and to live in peace and freedom.

It is not just a saint who can forgive, not only Jesus or Buddha who can make great sacrifice. Compassion and love do not need grand gestures and dramatic expression. Our opportunities for love, forgiveness, and reverence are manifold. Each time we respond with love we create a world of peace and integrity. Every response is worthy, significant, each makes a difference.

The greatness of our hearts lies in not demanding proof that our responses of care and love make a difference. Our faith in love itself sustains us, the richness of our caring nurtures us. In not asking for confirmation, approval, or reward we are free to live simply in the spirit of reverence and love.

The stories teachers (including me) often open retreats or teachings with speak of this love and faith. They invite us to look anew at our own loves. What in our lives now could be healed by forgiveness? What discord and division exists that could be reconciled by patience and love? What conflicts could be ended by tolerance and compassion? In each day, in each moment, what opportunities do we have to truly make a difference?