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Why The Love You Take is Equal to the Love You Make
Love is a paradox. The more you hoard it, the less you have and when you give it away, you have more left than you gave.
A decade ago on September 11, 2001, some men's inhumanity to man was perpetrated and our nation reeled from the impact. There was anger and outrage and a commitment to go after the ringleaders, but what I didn't expect was the effect it had on our personal attitudes toward each other. I was struck by the many unselfish, loving acts that came after that. Many of us were more caring, more appreciative and loving. Drivers would slow down and let you in, people would greet you with a smile and there was a renewed love for our country and for the heroes who struggled with the tragedy. It began to dawn on me that even when we are dealt a shattering blow, there is an ability to draw from whatever reservoir of love is left and in the giving to others, we are enlarged and renewed ourselves.
Once I was a substitute teacher in some of our most troubled public schools where I took pride in my ability to have the students working within the first fifteen minutes of class. At the most difficult school, however, I found there were some students who were immune to my skills and practiced authority. They simply would not cooperate. I decided to do some research and found out that every single one of them were in homes where one or both parents were absent and they had little supervision and concern from any adult. My heart went out to these troubled "incorrigibles" and I started treating them, not with discipline but with compassion and honest interest in them.
To my surprise, every one of them began to do their work and participated like the rest of the class. Love was the missing ingredient in their lives and they represent thousands and thousands more throughout the world who will not listen, will not cooperate and one day they respond to a little attention from architects of hate and strap a bomb to themselves or hijack a plane heading for the world that turned its back on them.
Love is the only satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. ~ Erich Fromm
Mother Teresa left her job teaching girls in a Catholic school and spent 50 years in India caring for in the words of Emma Lazarus: the " tired... poor... huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse,"abandoned on the streets. Every day she would bring them to her plain, unfurnished home and love them as if they were Jesus. "We have all been created for greater things - to love a person without any conditions, without any expectations... " She said that the more we love each other, the closer we come to God.
The famous "love" chapter in the Bible, I Corinthians 13, gives some interesting descriptions of love that I saw evidenced after 9/11. "Love is patient and kind." Think about being in traffic, in lines at the market, trying to get kids ready for school, politicians and spending, a spouse late for a meal or an event....Love is patient and kind. Think about it.
There is a wonderful word coined by Myles Coverdale in 1535 which we don't use today--Lovingkindness. It is hesed in Hebrew, metta in India, mohabbat in Persian, and agape in Greek. Unlike many English words, its meaning is obvious. Acts of kindness motivated by love. The word is usually associated with God, but one I would like to see associated with you and me.
Why isn't it? I think it is because our attitude is the opposite of Mother Teresa's. We do have conditions before we express love. We do have expectations. In fact, if someone does not fulfill our expectations, we withhold love--If someone does not meet our conditions, we not only withhold love, we often give the opposite or at least a piece of our mind.
Respected writer and theologian, Arthur Bowler, tells a story from his youth about his little brother being caught defacing his father's brand new hymnbook with a pen. Both he and his brother were frozen, expecting the harshest consequences of this breach of their father's conditions and expectations..
My father picked up his prized hymnal, looked at it carefully, and then sat down, without saying a word. Books were precious to him; he was a clergyman and the holder of several degrees. For him, books were knowledge, and yet he loved his children. What he did next was remarkable. Instead of punishing my brother, instead of scolding or yelling or reprimanding, he sat down, took the pen from my brother's hand, and then wrote in the book himself, alongside the scribbles John had made: John's work, 1959, age 2. How many times have I looked into your beautiful face and into your warm, alert eyes looking up at me and thanked God for the one who has now scribbled in my new hymnal. You have made the book sacred, as have your brothers and sister to so much of my life.
It is so easy to react in anger when others hurt us, but think of the impact on others when you react with love even in the face of loss or pain. Jesus said it this way (my paraphrase): If you do good to those who do good to you, that's not love, everybody does that--but if you love your enemy, bless those who curse you, do good
to those that hate you, and pray for those who use you and
persecute you--that is love. ~ Matthew 5:44
One of my favorite hubbers, Sunflowerbucky recently wrote an excellent article entitled "A Decade Later--Lessons Learned." I left a comment there and because it relates to my subject, I am reproducing it here:
Hey Bucky, I noticed that after 9/11 everyone was nicer to each other, there was unity in mourning and our patriotic sense was heightened. It lasted longer than I expected and there was total support of marshaling our forces for a Taliban strike. I am not sure our aim was perfect and we made some mistakes, but there is no doubt in the terrorists mind that if you stir up the American hornets nest, we will swarm and we will sting.
In the years following, the swarm has polarized into nonsensical versions of right and left and the leaders are taking advantage of our lack of unity.
Thomas L. Fieldman has written a book: That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. I heard him being interviewed and he said that other, more vigorous economy leaders in the world point to our self preoccupied, entitled attitudes and say we are not listening to the world.
I agree. We need to listen to each other, find a need and fill it like we used to. None of the people in the towers talked about our differences and how we need to further a political system of thought--every one of them talked to their loved ones and focused on what was important while our heroes battled the flames to help them.
I say remember the lessons of 9/11--Focus on the important, everyone pitch in and dig our country out of its self-inflicted wounds, and stand up tall.
It's not the height of our buildings or the numbers in our stock market that determines our greatness, it is the strength of our character and the determination of our spirit. I am at times conservative and liberal, saint and sinner, at times a hawk and at times a dove, but at all times I am an American and I'm ready to stand up and be counted. =:)
And we stand tallest when we can love without conditions and expectations, freely, with nothing to gain and nothing to prove because that is who we are.
The following are last texts and phone messages from the planes and towers of 9/11:
"Honey wanted to tell you how much i love you. You mean everything to me. You have my whole heart and life."
At 9:07 a.m., Melissa was able to make a second call to her newlywed husband Sean, who was asleep in San Francisco, and leave a message.
"Sean, it's me," she said in her message. "I just wanted to let you know I love you and I'm stuck in this building in New York. There's a lot of smoke and I just wanted to let you know that I love you always," she said.
"We're never going to know exactly what happened," a woman said of her husband. "And I'm resolved in that I know he probably died the way he lived his life. ...
"He died with honor, he died with courage, he died a gentleman and he died with a lot of love and faith because that's how he lived."
Another hijacked airliner, United Flight 93, also carried passengers who phoned loved ones.
Mark Bingham, 31 -- one of a group of passengers who tried to overpower the hijackers and regain control of the plane -- called his mother to say goodbye.
"He said 'I want you to know I love you very much, and I'm calling you from the plane. We've been taken over. There are three men who say they've got a bomb,'" recalled his mother.
Capt. Walter Hynes of the New York Fire Department's Ladder 13 dialed home that morning as his rig left the firehouse at 85th Street and Lexington Avenue. He was on his way downtown, he said in his message, and things were bad. "I don't know if we'll make it out. I want to tell you that I love you and I love the kids."
Elizabeth Rivas saw it that way too. When her husband left for the World Trade Center that morning, she went to a laundry, where she heard the news. She couldn't reach him by cell and rushed home. He'd called at 9:02 and reached her daughter. The child reported, "He say, mommy, he say he love you no matter what happens, he loves you." He never called again. Mrs. Rivas later said, "He tried to call me. He called me."
There was Tom Burnett's famous call from United Flight 93. "We're all going to die, but three of us are going to do something," he told his wife, Deena. "I love you, honey."
Todd Beamer of United 93 wound up praying on the phone with a woman he'd never met before, a Verizon Airfone supervisor named Lisa Jefferson. She said later that his tone was calm. It seemed as if they were "old friends," she later wrote. They said the Lord's Prayer together. Then he said "Let's roll."
expect to pass through this world but once. Any good
thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow
human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect
it, for I
shall not pass this way again. ~ Stephen Grellet/William
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