Driving through my neighborhood the other day, my eyes caught on a sign hung at the corner of an intersection I was passing through. It’s a sign I have passed many times before and, like always, my mood was lifted when I saw it. Sitting beside a centuries-old stone meeting house, it offers the same lovely suggestion William Penn made many years ago,
“Let us then try what love will do”
How easy it is to read this sign, to smile and appreciate the sentiment behind the words, and then drive on and forget. How much harder to remember to try what love can do when my four year old is having a meltdown, when my husband and I are arguing, when I’m having a long, hard day. When we turn on the news and witness all the disasters, the traumas, the heartbreak there is in the world. How much harder it is then to choose love, and yet, how much more vital.
It’s not easy to remember to feel love when we are angry or frustrated. Sometimes I will remind myself, when my kids are wailing or shrieking, “What they need right now is for you to show them you love them” but even though I can remind myself of that, it can still be very hard to do.
It’s hard to remember your love for your spouse when you are shaking with anger at them. It is hard to feel compassion and understanding for total strangers, especially strangers who intrude on our lives in disrespectful or hurtful ways. When I do try, though, when I take a deep breath, or even a break, and try to see through the eyes of my heart, things change.
The foot-stomping, screaming toddler turns from an instant temper-provoker to a sad, tired little kid. The hot mess of anger cools to something manageable when I try to see my spouse as a fellow human, with all of the beauty and imperfections humans possess. And when I practice this, this seeing what love can do, I find myself more and more in a place of love without even trying.
Less angry, with less arguments and less tantrums all around. My family feeds off the love I give them, and give it back to me in return. Because just like anger and negativity, love spreads. Can you think of anything better to work at spreading, besides the simple, nonjudgmental gift of love?
There is a beautiful Stevie Wonder song that begins with him singing the words of a news report, announcing that “love’s in need of love today – don’t delay, send yours in right away”. I think this holds true for every day. When I find it hard to try what love will do, I would do well to remember those words – that there is too much negativity, too much hate, out there in the world, and it is up to us, you and me and all of us, to see what love can do.