Until I dive right into a situation, I will never understand how to love the people who live there.
As a writer, I could talk poetically about love and compose moving essays on love. But unless I walk into the real life of someone who needs my love, I won’t have a clue. Because I’m a writer trained to quietly observe others, this has been a difficult lesson for me. I am still taking baby and adolescent steps when it comes to loving people well. But here are a few things I’ve learned when I have dared to enter love’s details.
- Love learns to make jokes while helping people deal with embarrassing things such as getting back and forth to the bathroom.
- Love listens to the same story again and again and again when old age or illness has damaged a person’s short-term memory.
- Love looks past a house that needs cleaning to the person who just needs to talk.
- Love spends hours making those frustrating phone calls to agencies, medical personnel, relatives, and anyone else who must receive or supply information and services.
- Sometimes love just offers a ride, shops for groceries, picks up a child from school, or throws together a big pot of spaghetti for unexpected guests.
- Love listens more than talks.
- Love offers presence more than advice.
- Love can be tough and feisty when necessary.
- Love has to just sit down and cry sometimes.
- Love never underestimates the value of a surprise treat, such as an outing or homemade brownies.
- Love holds the crippled hand, embraces the diseased body, kisses the forgotten cheek.
We can make love really complicated by standing back and theorizing about what it means and does. Yes, love can require more than we think we can afford at times. But mostly we love one conversation at a time, one small act at a time. When we understand that, it’s much easier to stop thinking so much and simply start loving.
Here’s an exercise:
Recall what you have learned about loving people in the details. When have others loved you that way?