When Heart Speaks To Heart

Judith Valente
4 min readJan 28, 2024
A painting by Dorsey McHugh in which men and women, young and old, walk side by side arms around each other toward and unknown destination.
The painting “Walking Each Other Home” by artist Dorsey McHugh is a beautiful depiction of friendship and community, inspired by a Ram Dos quote “We’re all just walking each other home.”

Did you ever experience an event that caused you to sit up and wonder about the strange coincidences that enter our lives? I felt that sense of wonder this past week.

For some reason, I thought of one of the girls who attended kindergarten through eighth grade with me. Perhaps Patty came to mind because my birthday was last week. She was born one day after me. Our mothers met in the hospital maternity ward. When I looked at my Facebook page on my birthday, I discovered a message from Patty. I hadn’t seen or heard from her since our grammar school graduation decades ago.

I sometimes wonder about friends from my elementary school. There is a black and white photograph of our class from perhaps the second or third grade tucked away in an over-stuffed drawer. Whenever I come across that photo, it never fails to make me weep. I long ago lost touch with all except one of my fellow students who is related to me by marriage.

All those sweet faces. Where could they be now? Has life treated them well?

Luckily, the friend who contacted me on my birthday seems happy in her life. That delights me greatly.

I had been thinking about friendship because it seems that the older I get, the harder it is to maintain relationships. Many of my friends are retired but remain as busy as ever. This one or that is off to Florida for the winter. One or another is attending a conference, visiting children or grandchildren. Sometimes I think it would be easier to schedule a private audience with the Pope than get some of my friends to come over for dinner.

There is a famous New Yorker cartoon of a man on the telephone looking down at his datebook. “No, Thursday is out,” he says. “How about never? Is never good for you?”

Sometimes I feel as though I’m living inside that cartoon.

New Yorker cartoon of a man on the phone looking at his date book, saying, “No, Thursday’s out. How about never — is never good for you?”
Sometimes life gets so hectic, it is like living inside this New Yorker cartoon.

Friends have been a lifeline for me because I was raised mainly as an only child. My brother and sister are much older than me and moved out of our house when I was still rather young.

One of the things I love about living part of the year in Italy is that I see friends every day of the week. I encounter them at the little family-owned grocery stores or the outdoor markets. You get to know the grocery store owners and the outdoor vendors too. You see the same people at church and they too become friends.

Back in the 12th century, St. Aelred of Rievaulx wrote a treatise called “Spiritual Friendship” that remains as relevant as ever. An English monk, St. Aelred defined friendship as two hearts speaking to one another as friends entrust to each other “the contents of our heart.”

True friendship, Aelred said, stems from two sources — benevolentia and caritas, goodwill and loving care. The model for friendship, he added, is Christ. Human friendship therefore becomes a step toward knowing God. A true friend — a spiritual friend — becomes “a guardian of love” and more, “a guardian of [our] soul.”

It is all right to gently correct our friends when necessary, Aelred maintains, but we love and accept them flaws and all — even when we can’t get them on the phone or over for dinner.

Because of Patty’s surprise message last week, I’m inspired to search for other childhood friends. If anyone from our class at Lincoln Elementary School in Bayonne, N.J. is reading this, I hope you will reach out to me.

Is there a friend with whom you’d like to reconnect? St. Aelred said true friendship is eternal. It is never too late to start again, to speak “heart to heart.” Who might be waiting for your call, or your message of Facebook?

Figures in silhouette climbing a mountain, with two of them reaching back to help others climb to the summit beside a sunny sky.
St. Aelred of Rievaulx writes in his treatise “Spiritual Friendship” that true friendships are eternal, based on mutual goodwill and loving care.

(To see more of Dorsey McHugh’s art which begins this post, please visit: The Same Family | Step Into My Story . . . (wordpress.com)



Judith Valente

Author of 4 spirituality books & 2 poetry collections. Award-winning reporter for Wall Street Journal, PBS-TV, Washington Post & 2 IL public radio stations.