"What love we’ve given, we’ll have forever. What love we fail to give, will be lost for all eternity." (Leo Buscaglia)
Years ago, in Ruidoso, New Mexico, I was bored and wanted something to read. We had stopped at a little mini-mart sort of place, and I was browsing through their tiny selection of books. Most of them were sappy Harlequin Romance type stuff, but one book caught my eye. It was a gold shiny book, and the title, "Love" was simply embossed on the cover. It was written by a man named Leo Buscaglia. It was the mid 1970’s, and I was still into the whole hippie vibe about peace and love, so I bought the book. It changed my life.
Recently a friend questioned where I got my ideas about relationships. He thought that many of my ideas about friendship and love were very different than what he’d been taught growing up. At first, I wasn’t really sure where my ideas came from. I assumed I’d learned them from my parents. And, to be sure, a great many of my ideas and beliefs were formed from my parents. But not all of them. And I realized, slowly, that although I grew up Christian, I cannot reallly credit the Bible for my ideas. At least not directly.
It was then that I remembered my little gold book. I went to Barnes & Noble, and lo and behold: it is still in print! It’s not gold anymore (things seemed to be much more glittery back in the ’70s!) but the book is the same. I think Leo Buscaglia passed away several years back, but his wonderful ideas live on.
It was from that book that I learned that love is not something to be sought, but to be given. I very rarely expect to be loved back. And so I am very rarely disappointed. But I do get a lot of joy out of giving to others. And, yes, that is very much a Biblical principle, but I learned it from my little gold book.
I think that in our "me" society today so much is lost. We forget that the most noble and rewarding thing we can do is serve others. I have known so many people who so desperately want to be loved, and they go to such great extremes to get attention, to be loved. But all they have to do is give it away! That is one of the most amazing things about Twelve Step Programs; that’s why they work when everything else fails. One of their basic precepts is "you’ve got to give it away to keep it". It seems too simple to really work. But that’s the beauty of it: it’s fool-proof!
One of my greatest mentors used to say that you could never be too stupid to understand it, but you could be too smart. He was so right! When we complicate things, we miss the obvious. We get so caught up in figuring out how to get what we think we need. The truth of it is that all we have to do to get what we need is to put others’ needs first.
Leo Buscaglia taught that loving was about giving, about living in the moment, because life was too short to get all worried about tomorrow. He explained that we love, not to be loved, but simply to love. The act of loving, in and of itself, is enough. It is more than enough.
This is the season of Lent. It is a time of inward reflection and repentance. I think my biggest sins are sins of selfishness. When I get so caught up in me, and my problems that I can’t see the needs of those around me. When I am more worried about how we are going to pay the bills or meet a deadline than about picking flowers with my little girl, or listening to my son tell me about a joke he just heard. Those are the memories that will matter and last. The bills will get paid, deadlines will get met (or not). But in the end, they will not be remembered.
I am reminded of the Prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred let me sow your love; Where there is injury, pardon, Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy;
Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.