How Now Shall We Love?
I don’t think I’m alone in wondering what to give the people I love. But, lately I have been pondering what I think is a more difficult question. How should I give to the people I love? What do I give those who don’t want anything from me? In those cases, how do I give love?
How do I love without hypocrisy? If I give anything to those who don’t want anything from me—including my love—isn’t that being hypocritical? What is hypocrisy anyway?
Sincere love is a no-strings-attached love. It means I’m not hoping to gain anything from it, and the other person has no obligation to reciprocate. I give my love because I want to give it.
Therefore, I’m not pretending to love. I love because it is part of who I am. In this way, I realize my love comes from a deeper part of me.
Now I remember this sincere, authentic love. I’ve seen pictures of it.
One picture shows two little girls. One is decidedly older with blond curls long enough to curl around her ears. She can’t be more than eighteen months, too little to actually hold “all by herself” her brand-new, baby sister draped across her lap. Yet, by the expression on her face, she believes she is. She wears a look of pure glee as if her chubby, red-apple cheeks are filled with sweet-tart pectin.
In another picture, a nearly seven-year-old cradles her newborn brother. She feeds him from a bottle before leaving for school. He is the first baby she has held on her own. He is the first baby she has a right to hold without having to ask or hoping someone will offer. She can offer out of instinctual care for him or for her mom who might need a break.
I have more than seen this sincere, authentic love. I have also heard it.
“Who gets him?”
My youngest son was ten when he asked me that question about my middle son. I recalled having had a similar conversation with his oldest brother at the same age. But, before I could launch into the explanation and outline the responsibilities of caring for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder; before I had time to think about how my ten-year-old’s question could be interpreted two different ways; before I considered these bookend brothers with their unique gifts, personalities, and birth order roles; before I could swallow the teary lump in my throat, my ten-year-old said, “Because I think he should be with me.”
“You do? Why?”
“Because he can come over to my house any time to watch sports, so you and Dad can go on dates. He can hang out with my wife and my kids and me. I’m going to live across the street anyway.”
Taste the sweet-tart pectin of those words!
He is thirteen now and has realistically moved his future self further away than across the street. But, not too far.
As for my oldest son, the one who is living at college ninety minutes away, the one who felt the deepest responsibility at that tender age of ten?
“I wouldn’t want to live out of state,” he told me just last month referring to his future plans. “I need to be close enough to home in case he ever needs me. In case you do.”
Cradle that offer like a babe in arms!
Maybe the most sincere, most authentic, most unmasked love is the kind of pure, instinctual love only simply understood by children.
How now shall we love? How did we love then?