One day, a young woman was standing in the middle of the town, proclaiming that she had the most beautiful heart in all the valley.
A large crowd gathered and they all admired the heart for it was perfect. There was not a mark or a flaw in it.
Yes, they all agreed. It was the most beautiful heart they had ever seen.
The young woman was very proud and boasted even more loudly about her beautiful heart.

                                                                            * * * * * Suddenly, an old woman appeared at the front of the crowd and said,
"Why your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine."

                                                              * * * * * The young woman and the crowd looked at the older woman's heart. It was beating strongly, but it was full of scars, it had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in, but they didn't quite fit right and there were several jagged edges.
In fact, in some places there were deep gouges where whole pieces were missing.
The people stared-how can she say her heart is more beautiful, they thought?

                                                                                  * * * * * The young woman looked at the old woman's heart and saw it's condition and laughed.
"You must be joking," she said.
"Compare your heart with mine. Mine is quite perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears."

                                                                                    * * * * * "Yes," said the old woman. "Yours is perfect looking, but I would never trade with you.
You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love. I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them.
Often, they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart, but sometimes the pieces aren't exact and I have some rough edges, which I cherish, because they remind me of the love we shared.
Sometimes, I have given pieces of my heart away and the other person hasn't returned a piece of theirs and these are the deep gouges----giving love is taking a chance.
Although, these gouges are painful, they stay open to remind me of the love I have for these people, too, and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting.
So now do you see what true beauty is?"

                                                                            * * * * * The young woman stood silently with tears running down her cheeks. She walked up to the old woman, reached into her perfect young and beautiful heart and ripped a piece out.
She offered it to the old woman with trembling hands.
The old woman took the offering and placed it in her heart and then took a piece from her own old scarred heart and placed it in the wound of the young woman's heart.
It fit, but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges.

                                                                                * * * * * The young woman looked at her heart, not perfect anymore, but more beautiful than ever, since love from the old woman's heart flowed into her.
They embraced and walked away, side by side.

                                                                        * * * * *           

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