Love is in the air


I have a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. I love it because I appreciate any day that celebrates and promotes love, and I like to see the visual symbol of love, simple red hearts, floating around everywhere. Love truly does seem to be in the air around the week of Feb. 14. On the other hand, I hate the commercialization of the day and that it promotes just one idea of love; and that singular idea of love can make people feel lonely.

But I will accept a day to celebrate love any day of the week and to contemplate the many aspects of human love is always a good thing.

The best part of my job as director of Andrews House is witnessing love in action: seeing the physical manifestation of love at work. I like the quote the local ecumenical youth group employs: “Work is love made visible.” I see this type of love through hundreds of volunteers working in our community, giving kind service to others. I know I have addressed this subject in this column before, but I believe the power of love cannot be overstated. Love, kindness, and compassion are the strongest forces that bind humankind.

In my work at Andrews House, I sense this love in abundant quantities. Such an abundance of love feels like a swelling river that sweeps up others in its path. A river of love manifested in tangible ways, such as giving food to those who need it. Several times a year our good neighbor, Staas Brewery, organizes a veritable “love campaign” with their patrons in the form of food drives to benefit our food pantry. Several area churches do this on a weekly basis as well. This food is a tangible sign of love and caring for those who access our Little Free Pantry in front of Andrews House or our Emergency Pantry. A contractor working on Winter Street last summer witnessed the many people who frequently access this pantry box throughout the day and the week. It drew her to become a regular contributor to the box, sharing her love with anonymous strangers in this tangible way.

For those accessing the little free pantry, it might be the only sign of love and hope they experience that day. A loving kindness in the form of nourishment.

I recently watched a documentary film about the meeting of his holiness, the Dalai Lama, and Bishop Desmond Tutu that led to their bestselling book, “The Book of Joy.” The film is called “Mission: Joy Finding Happiness in Troubled Times.” There are many quotable moments in the film, but one stood out to me; the Dalai Lama quoted an old Tibetan saying, “Wherever you have friends, that’s your country; wherever you receive love, that’s your home.”

I’m glad that we are a community that extends love in anonymous ways. That people think of this as home because this is where they receive love in small material ways. A sense of love and belonging found in little kindnesses, caring, and compassion is truly what makes a home. Oftentimes, we think of our country or our home as a place. But with love, home can be everywhere.

I hope this St. Valentine’s week you have given and received more love than usual. I encourage us all to carry this practice throughout the year and create a great wave of love that sweeps up our neighbors near and far. I hope this leads us to find ways to show love in tangible acts of caring that make people feel at home in our neighborhoods, our towns, our states, our country and our world.

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