Love changes us.
I’ve been sitting in front of this life sucking computer screen for about two hours now, trying to find words to describe WHY love changes us. And how. And I honestly just don’t know how to find the words.
Instead, over and over again in these hours, I have closed my eyes to think about the times in my life when I have seen my friends, family, and even strangers LOVE someone. The philosophy and fancy language I could use to describe love seems so pale in comparison to the stories. I have seen things that changed my life and I cannot capture the impression that watching their struggles, their heartache, their triumph, and their LOVE has made on me.
I have a friend, who has devoted his life to serving others in a simple, administrative job in a small, Mid-west college. His name won’t ever be known. He won’t ever receive accolades for the work that he has been doing that has taken him away from his beloved brother and sister. But he LOVES. He has sacrificed his future, his money, and great business opportunities in order to wholeheartedly devote himself to a mission devoted to teaching and loving college students in a middle of no-where town. Watching his daily, humble sacrifice has changed my heart.
About ten years ago, I experienced one of the most humbling moments of my life, handed to me by a couple I had dismissed out of hand because I had scorned them for their simplicity. (I am ashamed to say that is code for, “I thought they were stupid.”). I had tried to help their daughter, who had severe special needs but… I am selfish. I didn’t know what to do or how to help and soon found someone else to step into my place caring for her that day, going off to do things that I found to be easier, simpler, and more fun. But, for some reason, her family LIKED me. That night, after I had subtly ‘passed’ her over to someone else, they showed up, asking to talk to me especially. They had brought a photo album filled with pictures; pictures of their little girl, a little girl who had been passed around multiple abusive foster homes. I learned that there were terrible reasons she had so many disabilities. And I listened as they told me about when they first met her and fell madly in love with her. They were so excited to show me every single photo. My lack of love for their daughter was so deeply contrasted to their wholehearted acceptance of her as a person that I have never forgotten it. Unbeknownst to them, they had given me a harsh and much needed lesson for which I will be eternally grateful.
I have watched dear friends lose children or carry babies diagnosed with devastating illnesses to term. I watched them hold their babies, coo to them, and hand them to their brothers and sisters to cuddle. Once, I attended the funeral of an infant, watching as his littlest ‘older’ brother ran up to the picture of his baby, kissing it. Hundreds of people filled the church that day, weeping for a child we all had known would be gone when he was only a few weeks old. A few days before his death, I had visited the family and asked his little sister what she felt when she first saw her littlest brother, moments after he was born. She made a face and said, “He looked so gross!”. And my heart ached. As an adult, I was thought she was referring to the little one’s severe facial deformities. But then she continued, “He was so ooey-gooey! But once they gave him a bath, he looked just like US.” And I suddenly realized that she loved him so completely that she could only see the similarities they shared, not their differences.
The stories are too many… I have too many stories of watching people sacrifice deeply and absolutely to give others life. I watched people risk money, time, careers, their health, and even their very lives. Every single time, it has taken me aback, challenging me and inviting me to grow.
These stories and experiences have inspired me. Every time I have seen someone love… every time I have been challenged to love… every time I realized that I had to choose between someone or something… After each and every experience, my heart changed. And, during the few times when I chose to love, I began to realize that my heart had changed for the better.
Love changes us. Watching others love changes us. Making hard choices to love another changes us. Experiencing BEING loved changes us.
To all of those who sacrificed themselves in order to love another person, I want to say thank you. I cannot imagine the things you have gone through. But there were times when I saw a glimpse of your suffering, of the tears, the strength, and the will to continue to love another no matter what it cost you. Watching you love has changed me, inspired me, and made me believe that maybe, somewhere inside of me, I might also have that same strength.
To the people who have allowed me to love them, even if I did so poorly or imperfectly, THANK YOU. I NEEDED you. You stretched my heart. You brought me out of myself. You made me realize that there was a strength inside of me that I would never have known was there, if loving you hadn’t brought it to the surface and moved it to grow. I have realized that I have received a thousand and one times MORE back from loving you than you likely ever received from me.
You taught me how to love. Anything I might have given to love you was nothing compared to what I received in the joy and privilege of loving you.
I wrote this blog post simply to invite you, the reader, to join me. If you have loved someone who has stretched you, who challenged you, who NEEDED you, and who changed your life… for the better… would you join me in telling that them that they were WORTH loving?
Write a short reflection. Or make a short video. Or be a social media master and share a story under 140-280 characters on Twitter. Or whatever social media platform of your choice. But share the story about the person who challenged you to love. And hashtag it #YouWereWorthIt
Honestly, I am genuinely hoping that you can do a better job than I did, telling the ones you love that they were WORTH loving.
You can check out the videos in which I tried to tell an amazing, beautiful, little girl that she was WORTH loving at this link: I Gave You Up For Adoption & Serotiny: A Birth Mom’s Story. In 2006, I was a young girl facing an unplanned pregnancy. It was a terrifying and incredibly difficult time. But I could write a BOOK on how that little girls life transformed my own. Because everything that I was terrified of losing, I lost. And I lost it because, when I measured up the THING I was worried about losing, it paled in comparison to loving that little girl who depended on me. Losing everything HURT. But how can I even put into words how losing so much didn’t even MATTER? None of it mattered because I was in LOVE.
In love with a little girl who was worth giving everything for. In love with a little girl who needed me. In love with a little girl that I would do anything to help give her the best life possible.
She was worth it. Completely, utterly, absolutely worth it.
There has been criticism on the videos, as is to be expected. Apparently, I didn’t do a good job conveying the one message that I had hoped would be conveyed more than anything else.
That it didn’t matter how much it hurt. And that it doesn’t even matter how much losing her and knowing what someday she will face, through my choice, hurts NOW.
She was worth loving. She was worth sacrificing everything in order to love. She was worth it.
Do a better job than me to tell the people you love that they are worth loving. That they are worth sacrificing everything for in order to love. That the world might tell you that they weren’t worth loving, that they were too ill, too broken, that they would destroy your career, that you would be poor, and the million other things you were told you would lose because you chose to love them. Tell them they were worth it anyways.
Here are some things to keep in mind while writing your stories:
- Respect the others privacy.
- If you are writing about a sensitive point in another person’s life or perhaps disabilities or struggles they might be embarrassed for others to know, respect their privacy! Tips for protecting their privacy include avoiding the use of their name, location, pictures, gender or maybe even the date of the story. If possible, get their permission. Be prudent and careful, keeping in mind that loving another person means respecting that this is not just your story; it is also theirs.
- Resist this common temptation.
- Honestly, I think most of you who will be writing these stories are going to be doing it for the right reasons. But look inside of yourself. Are you writing this story in order to make yourself look like an awesome person? Then don’t write the story. ONLY write the story because you LOVE someone and want them to know it.
- Talk about how this person changed you for the better and say Thank You.
- Before knowing this person, were you selfish? Judgmental? Impatient? How have you noticed that you have changed for the better BECAUSE of this person? Tell them THANK YOU if they helped you to see the world in a more beautiful and merciful way.
- Let them know they were WORTH it.
- Were they worth the struggles, heartaches, or sacrifices? Tell them.
And hashtag it #YouWereWorthIt
Because, somewhere out there, someone doesn’t know if they are worth it. Someone else is facing a situation similar to yours where they are facing the pain of LOSING everything in order to love someone else. Someone needs to know that it is worth it. That THEY are worth it.
Let them know love is worth it. If they search this hashtag, let them read dozens and dozens and dozens of stories of HOPE. Give them the hope that choosing LOVE is worth it.
Because love, although hard, is always worth it.