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Once there was a child who was pure Love.

On the day he was born, the angels burst into song and the stars exploded in celebration, giving birth to new universes.

Such was the gift of this child who was Love.

But the child’s parents could not love him, for the misunderstanding of Love had been passed down to them from their parents, who had learned it from their parents, who had learned it from theirs.

They smiled at the child and did their best to care for him, but they could not love him when he was crying, when he was inconsolable, or when his needs eclipsed their own.

When the child who was Love looked into their eyes, all the self-hatred and unworthiness inside of them died.

His parents were secretly terrified.

Who would they be if they succumbed to this Love? What would happen without the judgements and rules and the voices of their parents inside their heads to make them wrong?

And so they did what most parents do.

They fed and clothed and bathed the child who was Love. They took care of his every need, as best as they could. They played with him.

They taught him the things they had been taught.

Good boys get good things and bad boys are punished.

You must be happy and quiet to be loved. When you are angry and disruptive, we’ll abandon you.

You must do what others ask to have your own needs met.

You must do things our way if you want to be loved.

Because of his innocence and helplessness, the child who was Love believed everything he was taught and followed the instructions of his parents.

Slowly, day by day, the Love he was faded until it was almost invisible.

The boy grew up strong, but not too strong, for if you stand above the crowd someone will knock you down.

The boy grew up smart, but not too smart, for knowing more than someone else makes you a target.

The boy grew up bold, but not too bold, for you must go along with the crowd if you want to survive.

And so it was that the child forget he was Love altogether.

Until one day, when he was playing in the park, the boy who had forgotten he was Love saw an old woman feeding the birds. Her clothes were dirty and torn, her hair tangled, her hands were gnarled and filthy.

The boy knew she was the kind of person you don’t talk to or bad things will happen.

But something made him get closer. The old woman lifted her head, gazed at him with kind blue eyes, and smiled.

“These are my friends,” she said, tossing breadcrumbs to the pigeons. “See how beautiful they are?”

The pigeons pecked at the bread around her feet. The boy noticed the purples, blues and grays of their feathers, how gracefully they moved, the way they seemed to trust the old woman, perching on her shoulders and knees.

“Everything is beautiful like that,” she said. “If you look for it.”

The boy heard the voice of his parents in his head, “Never talk to strangers!” 

He backed away without a word.

“You can feed them, too!” the old woman cried. “Try it.”

The boy thought she was just a crazy old woman who needed to be locked up. But the image of her wrinkled hands tossing bread to the birds stayed in his mind, and the kindness in her eyes sparked a tiny flame in his heart of Love.

“I wonder what I could feed?” the boy thought. He liked the idea of having something to take care of.

So the boy who was Love began to notice things.

The boy paused to watch the neighbor lady raking her lawn, struggling to stuff the leaves into garbage bags. 

He had never liked the neighbor lady because she had never liked him. When he accidentally kicked his ball over the fence into her backyard and refused to give it back. 

She owed him a ball and an apology, his parents said.

Instead of turning away and pretending not to see her, like he normally would, the boy who was Love noticed for the first time that he could give something.

“Here, let me help you,” he called out, walking across the yard. He held the garbage bag so that the woman could put the leaves inside.

“I’m not paying you,” the neighbor lady said.

“That’s okay,” the boy replied.

The two of them worked together side by side until the yard was free of leaves and they had bundled them up in bags.

“Thanks for your help,” the neighbor lady said. “I’m still not paying you.”

“I know,” the boy replied. The spark in his heart burned a little brighter.

“I wonder what would happen if I was just with someone, really with them, without asking for anything?” he thought.

It seemed like a fun idea.

That afternoon he helped more of his neighbors with their yard work, petted their cats, and picked up trash off the sidewalk. He said a big hello to everyone he met. A few people pretended not to notice, but most smiled and waved back.

The boy who was Love thought it was funny that today the world didn’t seem as scary as his parents had taught him it was.

When he got home, the boy’s mother was standing with her back to him doing dishes.

“I heard you were helping the neighbors,” she said without turning around.

“Yeah. It was fun,” he said.

“You shouldn’t go around butting into other people’s business,” his mother said. “It’s just not done.”

At that moment, the boy’s father entered the kitchen. “What’s this?” he asked.

“Your son has been soliciting the neighbors,” she said. “Helping them with yard work and such.”

The boy’s father looked at his wife and son. It didn’t seem like such a bad thing to him, but…

“Listen to your mother,” he said, patting the boy on the head. “Better not to rock the boat.”

The boy who was Love left the kitchen, feeling confused. He liked this giving. Something about it felt easy and good, like stretching in the sun.

When he went to school the next day, he gave the teacher all of his attention. He wasn’t particularly interested in division with remainders, but it seemed like the thing to do. The teacher smiled and placed her hand on his shoulder.

The other kids in class noticed. “Look at the little goody-two-shoes!” they said. “Brown noser.”

The boy who was Love couldn’t understand why paying attention should bother his classmates. He thought he was being a present for the teacher.

On the way home from school, the boy rubbed his neck, closed his eyes and let his head rest against the glass on the bus. It felt like his body needed a break, and giving it a rest seemed like the thing to do.

Suddenly the boy felt a wet thwack on his forehead.

Someone had thrown a spitball at him.

The kids at the back of the bus erupted into giggles.

The boy who was Love felt absolutely horrible. Life had been so difficult ever since he started doing this “giving” thing. The dirty bird lady must be crazy after all.

So he stopped giving and the flame in his heart of Love all but died out.

Years passed and the boy who was Love became a young man. He went to the college his parents recommended, got good grades and played on the soccer team.

“Keep your head down, work hard, and make us proud, son,” his father said.

The young man who was Love did his best to make his parents happy. He had a pretty girlfriend and a solid career path. He was well-liked and considered capable, but not so much so that it made other people uncomfortable.

Everything in the young man’s world was okay.

Until the day his girlfriend broke up with him.

The young man thought his heart had split in two. He cried over photos of the two of them together and could scarcely get himself to eat.

What he didn’t know is that something magical happens when your heart is broken open; the cracks allow the light to come in.

The sunlight shone in through the cracks in his broken heart, rekindling the fire of Love inside. 

At first, he thought something was wrong, a heart attack or a bad case of agita. It felt like his chest was on fire!

He wept until all the sadness inside him ran out into the earth. He noticed how the earth seemed happy to receive his tears.

“What if I was like the earth, receiving everything?” he thought.

The young man imagined himself opening his heart wide to the whole world. It came rushing in like a hurricane full off all the thoughts and feelings that had ever been.

It was so intense that the young man who was Love almost pulled the doors of his heart shut. Then he remembered that day at the park and the old woman feeding the birds, and he kept it open.

Eventually, the hurricane passed and his heart was a sea of calm, totally open to everything.

He thought of his girlfriend and the sadness welled up, filled his heart, and floated away.

He thought of his parents’ disappointment over the way he’d been slacking at school, and guilt engulfed him like a wave, until it, too, passed.

The young man who was Love noticed that thoughts and feelings moved through him when his heart was open. He felt them fully, but they didn’t last.

He remembered the experiment he’d done as a child, giving and feeding others like the old woman in the park. It felt good, like remembering the smell of home.

“What would I like to give?” he wondered.

His heart was so full of everything now that it was overflowing. There was so much!

The young man started with the roommates in his dorm. He listened, really listened, to them. He smiled from his heart and gave them his attention. He asked curious questions and became interested in what interested them.

At first, his roommates were suspicious. They thought he must want something: sex, money, the answers to the exam. 

But they gradually began to relax in his presence. They were more of themselves when the young man who was Love was around.

The young man who was Love noticed that people were different when he was receiving them. Their eyes softened and their breathing slowed.

It wasn’t always easy for the young man who was Love to receive. He had to feel the anger of someone who had just lost his job. He was hit full force with the sadness of a woman who was contemplating the end of her life.

But everything was so alive in his heart when it was open that even the ugliest things had the spark of life in them.

It didn’t take long before people began to notice that there was something different about the young man who was Love.

The students at college spread the word, calling him a guru, a magician, a messiah. They said he could work miracles.

The young man who was Love didn’t know anything about miracles or enlightenment, but he knew there was more of everything when he was receiving, and he knew that other people seemed to feel it, too.

So he kept doing it.

The students formed a group around the young man and scheduled events where he could talk to people. Even some of the teachers got involved to help with recruiting attendees.

The young man was happy to let them organize, since it seemed to bring so much aliveness to everyone. He didn’t have much to say at the events. Mostly he listened and told people they were okay, even when it didn’t seem that way.

There was something in the light behind the young man’s eyes that drew people in and helped them believe.

And so their lives changed. 

Some gave up drugs or alcohol, others forgave their loved ones and themselves. Some laughed with their entire beings for the very first time.

Being received by the young man who was Love was such a powerful experience that people came from all over the world to see him. 

The young man who was Love gave up on his good career path and let his followers make the arrangements for him to visit with more and more people.

One day, the young man’s parents came. They saw their son with long, wavy hair (his followers insisted that it made him more charismatic) and his kind eyes, listening and nodding to people who’d spent their life savings just to sit before him.

“What happened to you, son?” the young man’s mother said. “I hardly recognize you.”

“We’re worried about you,” his father said, noticing the strange people wearing t-shirts with their son’s image on them and handing out flyers. “We think you should come home with us.”

The young man who was Love listened with his whole soul and received the words of his parents.

“You’re right,” he said finally. “I’m not the same person that I was before, and I don’t know why. All I know is that my heart tells me to receive people, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Please, come home.” His mother had tears in her eyes. “I don’t trust these people.”

The young man who was Love smiled at his mother. “It seems to me that trust isn’t something I need anymore. When I’m receiving everything, then everything is okay.”

His parents didn’t understand. They continued to make arguments to convince him to come home, but the young man who was Love was content to be where he was until he was somewhere else.

The young man’s parents left, and things went on as usual. The events got so big that they were covered by the international press. Some of the original students from the college called themselves the Disciples and began hosting their own events, teaching people all over the world what they’d learned about receiving from watching the young man who was Love.

Not everyone was happy about what the young man was doing.

Groups formed to oppose these gatherings, calling the young man a charlatan and a false savior. They accused him of deceiving the foolish and ignorant for money and fame.

The young man’s heart hurt to hear these accusations, but he listened carefully to the fear and loneliness beneath their words. And he received them.

Some of his accusers felt this receiving and dropped their hatred. Others grew even more angry.

One day the young man who was Love spoke before a stadium filled with 100,000 chanting followers. 

One of the accusers whose heart was filled with so much hatred that it was black and oozing, smuggled a shotgun into the event. Just as the young man who was Love approached the microphone, the angry accuser pulled out the gun and shot him in the heart.

The young man who was Love crumpled onto the stage and died with his eyes and heart wide open.

The stadium erupted in tears, shouts and confusion. Hundreds of people were wounded and a few were killed in the resulting stampede.

When the hate-filled man saw how the young man who was Love had died so wide open, he burst into tears. The flame inside his black heart began to glow, and he turned himself in to the police.

News about the death of the young man who was Love spread across the globe. His followers redoubled their efforts and wrote a book about how their leader had died with his heart wide open.

Nations changed their laws because of what happened to the young man. Governments created “Receiving Rooms” in municipal buildings where everyone could be heard and seen. The movement spread across the world.

Not everyone agreed with the young man’s legacy. They called him a cult leader and led protests against their gatherings. But even they could not deny that some of the changes were good ones.

The young man’s parents were devastated by the death of their son. But when they saw the ripples of Love spreading across the entire world and even the Universe, their broken hearts opened and they finally understood.

Receiving wasn’t about changing anything; it was simply being with what was. And when that happened, everything was perfect, even when it wasn’t.

And the world was never the same.