Love is the centre of the universe, it transcends all other feelings and things that surround it. Without it, nothing else matters.
Ask a person who has just suffered a loss if there is anything on earth that could make them feel better, the answer will be no. Only having that person here with them now can change the pain they feel in their hearts.
The Beatles said it best when they sang, "All you need is love, love is all you need."
From the moment we are born, and some would argue long before, we are flooded with the love of our mothers. There's an intensity between a mother and new born that is rarely replicated in our lives.
Dorothy Day was an activist who worked for social causes such as pacifism and women's suffrage through the prism of the Catholic Church. She went on to change many lives throughout her lifetime, however it wasn't until she delivered a child that she felt the need to focus on others. It is well documented that she was a scattered person who was aimless, who drank too much and lived a life without purpose. She had attempted suicide twice before her daughter was born, yet that all changed when she felt the love in her heart for her daughter.
She wrote “If I had written the greatest book, composed the greatest symphony, painted the most beautiful painting or carved the most exquisite figure I could not have felt a more exalted creator than I did when they placed my child in my arms.” She was so inspired by that love, that it created a need in her to be compassionate and help all that she could, for her entire life.
Often our compassion for others is rooted deeply in the love we feel for those closest to us. When we are grateful for the love in our lives, it allows us to be more forgiving and forthcoming with others. Yet I know many situations where those who have nothing, and nobody are the most loving, giving people you could ever meet.
I want to engage you in a challenge. This week when you are encountering others besides family members, do so with loving kindness in your heart as through they are family members. If you have family members or friends who are challenging at this time, consider looking at them as the vulnerable infant that they once were. Find it in your heart to allow them to be safely vulnerable with you at this time. All you have to do is offer the nonjudgmental, accepting love we offer infants. All of this can be done from your perspective without ever sharing these thoughts with others. This is about you and how you are seeing the world right now. Through this experiment, see if you can affect the change you want to see in any relationship you choose.
I will give you an example; I worked in a group home for youth aged 16 to 24 years old. These youth could not live at home for one reason or another, a sad state of our society, but that's another blog. Many of these youth had done horrific things in their young lives and were extremely difficult to deal with. It was a challenging job. There were ten of them living in the home at any given time. A complicated mix of personalities.
My job, to put it quite simply, was to help them conform to societal norms so that they could finish school, have reasonable relationships and eventually get a job and be a contributing member of society. This was not an easy task in this throwaway society. A society that says the new boyfriend trumps a mother's child when the going gets rough and the sixteen year old is then asked to find somewhere else to live. We saw this and much worse time and time again. No doubt these youth were scarred, numb and lashing out -- who wouldn't?
I loved being a counsellor and I loved the social work field, but this job was almost too much for me. I was faced with raw emotions time and time again; much of it exercised itself as anger, and sadly sometimes rage. Just when I thought I couldn't take it any longer, I realized something. Something I had been fighting inside myself needed to come out. I started to show more love, more compassion, and more kindness. All of which was rather frowned upon from my training. I don't mean I didn't enforce rules or bring about change; I chose to come at it from a different angle. I was considered the counsellor you couldn't get away with pulling the wool over their eyes - and the tough love person. I did however do so with a softer touch.
One day I realized these children (and aren't we all children?) needed a Mother's love. I was still able to be tough and enforce rules and do my job, but I did so with loving-kindness. It worked!
One Sunday in May I was sitting in the office finishing my case notes after a long day shift, when there was a small knock on the open office door. I looked to see two of the residents standing there with sheepish looks on their faces, holding a single rose and a card. "Happy Mother's Day" they said.
I was stunned. I wasn't a mother, and it was the first time I had heard those words directed at me and the source was so unexpected that I sat there for a moment to let it sink in. These youth who couldn't organize a single thing in their lives, and were as broke as anyone could be had gotten it together enough to do this for me. One by one they came to the door for a hug. I was so incredibly humbled that I had few words, other than thank you. When I kept saying it to each of them they said it right back. One of the boys; a long haired tattooed, scruffy boy you might cross the street to avoid, held my hand and said "thank you for loving us enough to be a tough ass." I swear, sweeter words were never uttered.
That was a lesson I learned in that job, everybody needs somebody to care enough about them to show it. Not everyone gets that love from their parents or family, so sometimes in our daily living we need to cut people some slack. We can share some of the abundance of love we feel for our own families to others.
Not everyone who is in need of your loving kindness is in a group home, homeless or without family. It can be someone who seems to have everything. Do not judge, assume everyone you meet needs love. You can't have too many people to love you...just too few.