How Do You Measure The Size of a Heart?

by Hakim Be

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This poem was commissioned by the New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism for their 2017 Service Summit.

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How Do You Measure The Size of a Heart? - hakim bellamy
for the New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism

How do you measure
a hand?

In shakes, pounds, daps, hi fives, peace signs
or number of times held?

In number of fingers
at birth, in number of toes
that fit
in the pocket
of a palm?

Palms of every race, creed and “other” indistinguishable
impossible to measure
in pigment…
just like our hearts.

Do you measure it
in how many times we’ve
helped someone up,
pushed somebody down,
or punched somebody in the face?

How do you give
someone a hand?

What does it weigh?
What kind of load does it lift?
Can you measure it in Newtons?
Is charity
just the willful suspension of gravity
for guilt, for good
or for justice?

Is a hand nothing more than
the ability to put a pillow
between a neighbor
and the harsh realities of life?

For some,
a hand
is nothing more
than a good night’s sleep
in the absence of a Posturepedic mattress

For others
it's a miracle wrapped around a soup kitchen handle

Sometimes
it rests on the shoulder
of the mentee you tutor

And other times
it is removing the chips-turned-boulders
from all the people who told them “they couldn't do it.”

At least 51 Saturdays a year we “bring it in,”
a circle of hands, hype and hope
before every competition

the epicenter of each huddle of relentless giving
from the coaches to the referees final whistle

Can hands be measured
in tons of litter
“adopted” from our roads?

Or square footage of housing erected,
habitats for humans
formerly known as homeless?

Can it be measured in 7.9 billion hours of national service last year?
Can it be measured
in years?

Can it be measured in coats driven,
buttoned, zippered, gift wrapped, and bowed?

Can it be counted in digits or door-to-door
in surveys
and questionnaires?

Can they be raised
Like children
or question marks and light bulbs high above our heads?

Can a hand be measured in matter?

In handicaps
or handing cups to the drought.

To the most thirsty, dying from a desert
of touch inside them.

Can it be measured in kisses blown
or rounds of applause?

Can a hand be measured in care?
In degrees
against foreheads, or beats per minute
just above the wrist?

Can a hand
be mistaken for a wing
in the eyes of the beholder?

Can a volunteer
be mistaken for an angel
in the eyes of God?

Could hope be confused with help?
Them be mistaken for us?
We undifferentiated from self…

Sure, the word volunteer
originally referred to a taking up of arms
“for free”
it meant a different kind of corps.

But if what they say is true
the volume of a hand
balled up in desperation
is approximately the size of a fist…

Perhaps we are fighting for something
different.
Perhaps we are fighting
different.

Perhaps we are fighting for love
with love.

Catching all these hands, together
like answered prayers...

Perhaps
the measure of a hand
is heart.

And you know what they say
about people with big
hearts…

they are born
to serve.

© Hakim Bellamy March 24, 2017

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released March 24, 2017
Hakim Bellamy

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Hakim Be Albuquerque, New Mexico

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