Love. It is one word in the English language that means so many things. Leave it to English to squeeze multiple beautiful meanings into one short, choppy word. This word is printed on t-shirts and handbags, uttered by clueless teenagers, used in the same sentence as food items, and exploited in a million other ways. People can spend their whole lives searching for it and come up empty.
What is true love? Is it just one of the forces that mysteriously compels people to go on awkward dates with the opposite sex, and, if all goes well, leads to picking out curtains and changing diapers? If not, then what is it? Just the passion that we have for life and all it has to offer? Or is it mostly about sex? I suppose it depends a little on who you ask.
Didn’t you just know that I was going to start to relate this to God’s love for us? Couldn’t you just feel the preachy coming on at that loose end? But don’t get too cynical. It’s gooey, but it’s true. Jesus loves you. God so loved the world, as it is written. Why else would He bother with us after His people continually disobeyed Him? Why else did He come down to the earth and give us cryptic messages and commandments? Why did He die for us in quite a painful fashion? Because He loves us, and in that love, He helped us. We need it. We’re not all that. There is something wrong with human nature, no matter what anyone says. If the mere the fulfillment of selfish desires is not wrong, then why do we feel the inexplicable need to suppress ourselves? Why are there laws? Why do we try to combat things like racism, greed, and violence? Why do we have a conscience? If man’s highest calling is to fill his stomach and get what he wants- then why do we continually feel like there’s something more?
I used to have a government teacher at my Christian school who always talked about love. True love- a love for mankind. A love for people who would spit in your face. A love for people who would kill you. A love that shines in the darkness for all to see.
This love is hard to come by. As I was reminded today, many people are excluded from any kind of love. Many people are rejected by society, living either on park benches, in trailers, or mansions. They may have a hard time relating to people, saying the right things, or controlling themselves. Or maybe they were just hurt in the past. It’s actually really hard stereotyping reclusive/lonely people. There are a millions of reasons and millions of stories.
Nonetheless, the problem exists. Just this morning I was thinking about homelessness in particular, trying to think of ways that I could help out. It’s funny how God gives us signs when we least expect them. I was at school today, eating my lunch, wishing I had someone, anyone, to share the food and the sunny weather with. I went to go and throw away my plastic bag, and this crazy hobo lady (and I mean that in the most affectionate way possible) said something to me that I didn’t fully hear, but I was sure that it didn’t make much sense. I wanted to talk to her, but wasn’t sure if the opportunity would come. And then it did- she sort of struck up conversation with me in her own way. I could tell immediately that this woman was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. She claimed to have seen me the day before in the most mysterious way. I definitely wasn’t on campus yesterday.
I do not mention this story to talk about my good deeds and make myself out to be some kind of super Christian with a halo over my head. There were probably some selfish reasons involved, since I found this lady so intriguing. I can see myself writing a book or play about her, it was that good. But at times, this interaction definitely seemed strained, even though a part of me really wanted to talk to her, and I knew that talking to her would be the kind and loving thing to do. Not that I am always fond of the kind and loving thing to do. And it was a little awkward. There were so many things I wanted to talk to her about, but I kept feeling at a loss for words. You see, I rarely talk to people who are crazier than me. And even with perfectly sane people, I am not the greatest conversationalist. She babbled a lot about things that either didn’t make sense, made too much sense, or were completely irrelevant.Also, I was kind of embarrassed because I was walking around with a hobo woman who was carrying around a pillow and a cigarette lighter and basically some of her only possessions, as it seemed. Hard as it is for me to admit that I can be shallow.
So it was a hodgepodge of emotions. But my real point here is to raise awareness. Prepare to be aware. I mean, there I was, thinking about how I wished I had someone to eat with- and there was that woman lying on the grass, with nothing. Not her sanity, as far as I could tell, not a whole lot of love, not the greatest health, not money… There are lots of people like that. And it should make us sad. We’ve created a system in our society to create order and reward people based on what they do. It could be much worse. But there’s always going to be people that fall through the cracks. It’s easy to say that it’s their fault for being lazy bums. Maybe some of them are lazy, but how can you tell, and how can you so easily blame them? What if they don’t want to work because they feel like they have nothing to work for? What if they’re too mentally ill or mentally challenged or have some other kind of handicap?
So we have our nice little rules for behavior in society. You have to act a certain way, dress a certain way, have at least a little bit of money, have a job or a good excuse for not having a job, make yourself look decent, avoid certain subjects. And then, once we master all this, we think we’re golden. But our society isn’t always right, let alone perfect. We’re not perfect. But our God is. And God wants us not only to “help ourselves” as the popular saying with no Biblical basis goes, but to help out our fellow creatures.
This woman I met today said she was Catholic. I hope I’ll see her around again sometime. And I pray that she will get to know God better and find a job or something. I hope next time I see someone in need, I’ll do a better job of “loving” on them, like my government teacher always said. Because that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. Sometimes we get all caught up in the technicalities of the Bible and forget the theme, which is love. And love will go a long way.