Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Love You, I Love You Not

Do you read as much as you breathe? Do you enjoy an open road, a sunny day, and a wide expanse of sandy beach? If you quit your job today would you feed your soul with travel and writing and long walks through rambling woods? Do you have an opinion on most anything and frequently feel the need to express it? Do people object? Do you care? Do you value education and kindness and compassion toward others, especially toward those less fortunate? Do you feel the world would be a better place if we all just got along and shared our toys? Do you love your family, live for them, know in your heart that you would, cliché as it is, lay down your life for them? Do you believe in a higher power with everything that is inside of you, live for the greater good, and yet the word “religious” makes you want to run vomit? Do you?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, nice to meet you. I think we’re going to be great friends. I think we’re going to be great friends because it is easy to like someone like me. And these are all me. If you answered “yes” to most of these, well, forgive me, but I may have trouble remembering where I end and you begin. We are so much alike that I couldn’t not like you even if I tried, that I might forget myself at times and merge into your personal space just a tad too much.

Or maybe you prefer the mountains and vast canyons to a salty ocean breeze. Maybe you haven’t picked up a book since high school and don't care if you ever do. Maybe the only travel you’re interested in is a trip to the corner market and only, then, when absolutely necessary. Maybe you believe that opinions are best kept quiet as are the owners of such. Maybe you believe that wealth belongs to those who are fortunate enough to have it, as does food and clothing and shelter. Maybe you don’t see the point in helping those “who won’t help themselves.” Maybe you feel that all those who don’t participate in your particular religion are going to Hell and are somehow not a child of God. Maybe. Maybe this is you.

If, indeed, this is you, I’m going to have issue with you. I can just tell you that flat out. We are not alike, and I have no desire to ever be alike. And, yet, here is the challenge. My heart tells me to have compassion toward all, to love all, even those who are not like me, even those who are hard to love. Some offenses, granted, are more tolerable than others. If you prefer the dry desert air to a sultry Southern afternoon, if you would rather ski the slopes on a frigid mid-winter day than walk barefoot along Northern beaches, well, we will have some great fun to chat about later, but vacationing together will never be on either of our calendars. If, on the other hand, you condemn entire groups of people for what they wear, what they believe, what color of skin they were born into, who they love, or whether they were born with a penis or a vagina, well, you and I are going to get into a skirmish or two.

So how, indeed, do I go about loving everyone, showing compassion toward EVERYone when I, myself, am condemning the groups who are condemning groups? I try to look at it like this. As a parent—and if you are one, you’ll know what I’m talking about here—there are days when your child can do no wrong. He holds the door for the elderly lady at church, does exactly what you ask him to do—the first time, plays with his little brother even when his friends want him to go over to their house, puts his dishes in the sink after dinner, and hugs you and tells you he loves you right in front of everybody. Then there are the other days, the days he pretends he never heard you ask him to take out the garbage, the days he has his little brother in a headlock and has to be pried off, the days he calls you names that even you’re embarrassed to say out loud, the days he throws every baseball glove in the entire house up onto the roof, the days you’d like to stick him in a box and ship him off to some exotic land, to any land, really, anywhere, anywhere at all. He’s my child, always. I love him, always. Without question. Some days he’s just more likeable than others.

Same with you who fall into the second group, I guess. I love you always. Some days, you’re just going to be more likeable than others. I know the good is there. I’ll just have to try really really hard to look for it. And at the end of the day, I may just have to think, let’s just say good night now and wish for a better day tomorrow. It’s easy to love those who are like me. And it’s easy, on the good days, to love those who aren’t. The challenge, as I see it, is to love always, no matter what.

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