What I know about love I mostly learned on TV. In 20 years of hosting my show, I've seen what love can do in the most ordinary moments (watching a mother take her child to the first day of school) and the most extraordinary (strangers offering their homes to strangers in the aftermath of Katrina ). Whenever you've been touched by love, a heart-print lingers, so that you're always reminded of the feeling of being cared for, knowing that, to someone, you mattered.
I remember leaving the Houston Astrodome early in the morning eight days after Katrina hit. Most people were still sleeping as we finished taping our show. A young father in a clean white T-shirt was carrying his sleeping 6-year-old daughter over his shoulder, and I stopped to ask, "How ya making out, sir?"
He replied, "I'm gonna make it, 'cause I've already survived Katrina and now I'm just moving on love—and I ain't never felt so much love in my whole life."
"Wow," I said. "You are gonna make it."
Lots of guests over the years have left heart-prints on me. Mattie Stepanek , a child poet whose only goal was to spread peace, was one of the wisest people I've ever met. If angels come to earth, he was definitely one of them. He came to remind us of who we are: love incarnate. When he died at age 13, I made a book of all the e-mails we exchanged. He was love to me.
Erin Kramp was an "ordinary" mother. She discovered she had breast cancer, and while she was fighting to live, she prepared her 6-year-old daughter, Peyton, for life the best way she knew how. She started recording tapes, more than 100 total, about everything she could think of to tell her daughter as she grew up, knowing there wouldn't be enough time to say it all: how to put on makeup, get boys to like you, choose friends, and dress well; stories about herself; her favorite songs, foods, and movies. Her most awesome gift, I thought, was this message: "If God decides to take me to heaven, I'm going to be looking for another soul to bring to Daddy. So I want you to know that I would very much bless Daddy remarrying."
Four years later, when Peyton's father wanted to remarry, he went to his daughter first. The 10-year-old said she needed more time to get to know her father's bride to be, so he waited. When Peyton said she was ready, Doug proposed. That same night, Peyton wrote a letter welcoming her new mom. Awesome! The love exchanged among Erin, Peyton, Doug, and his new wife, Cheryl, was so authentic it made us all rejoice when we witnessed it on the show. That's what love does: It fills you up, mends the tattered and broken spaces in your spirit. It makes you feel whole. Not everybody has an Erin Kramp in her life, but love is all around and ever available. I know this for sure.
Sometimes in the thick of life, when my call list is longer than the day and people are lined up waiting for meeting after meeting, I just stop. I still myself. And look at a tree. A flower. The sun's light reflecting off the window. And I remember love is available. I inhale it, exhale, and get back to work.
I recently reread an e-mail from Mattie, dated 11/22/2001. He was 11 at the time. He'd recently seen The Color Purple (the movie), and he wrote, "This year my mom and I are both wearing purple for Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for things like safety during terrorism, for food and material things like that, and for the people in the circle of my life, like my mom and Sandy, the Moxes upstairs, and you. For things that God has given us, just because we are loved. Purple. Gentle breezes. Crickets. Shooting stars. Laughter. Feathers. I'm thankful that things are, so while we are, we can have gifts every day if we just open our hearts and spirits to them."