February is the month of love, so of course I’m going to turn my thoughts to that timeless topic. I think we all do a pretty good job at showing our loved ones how much we love them—(of course, we could always do more, but that’s a topic for another day). I can't stop thinking about the idea of loving the people around us who are not so easy to love. Family, friends, neighbors, —we all know how to show them love and what that looks like. I’m referring to the people we encounter every day who we don’t know as well, who we aren’t assigned to serve, who we aren’t related to, and therefore aren’t always thinking of.
Without getting religious, I have a few questions about this whole idea of loving the people around us. Are we obligated to love others, especially the "difficult" individuals in our lives? Will we be enriched if we show love to others, or will we be dragged down by the weight of loving the unlovable? Who really has time to show love to everyone? It's tough enough to give all the love we have to those closest to us. Isn't the idea sung by The Beatles, "Love is All You Need," simply a cute saying that doesn't really make sense in the world we live in today? I"m not sure what the answer is to any of it.
What I DO know is that I feel better when I show kindness, consideration, patience, and respect to those who aren't easy to love. I DON"T like how I feel when I'm grumpy, impatient, judgmental, short-tempered, and abrupt with anyone, even strangers. So if both these statements are true, and if I behave "nicely" to those around me and feel better when I do it, why is it so tough to sometimes do just that?
I have the opportunity to interact with dozens and dozens of people every day. A lot of them I get to know; others I never know by name. I was curious what they thought about this topic, so I decided to conduct my own little (very unscientific) survey. I made it a point to ask some of the people I encountered over the course of a few days how they know they are cared for (and therefore loved) by the acquaintences around them.
Some of the same themes kept popping up:
*People feel loved when someone listens to them/they feel heard. Whether it's the customer service representative on the phone or the clerk at the grocery store, we all appreciate it when we feel like our needs are met.
*People feel loved when small acts of kindness are done for them. A door held open, a smile, a nod, a thank you. It doesn't take much effort to give someone a boost.
*People feel loved when they can just “BE,” and not worry about having to fit in or conform. Instead of trying to change those around us, allow them to be themselves-- shortcomings and all-- and it seems to make every interaction better.
*People feel loved when they aren't judged. Like the statement above, simply existing in the presence of another human being without critique or judgment makes us feel good.
So what is love in this context? Well, we're not running around hugging everyone we see, or condoning some of the difficult behaviors we encounter. But we have the ability to influence others without too much fuss. And when it comes to love, I believe even a little bit goes a long way.