Love. We all need it. We all crave it. We are all surrounded by it, though we sometimes do not recognize it. Sometimes love comes like fireworks, and sometimes, like a gentle rain. But whenever and however love comes, it never leaves us unchanged.
Love. I’ve spent most of my adult life reading about it and all of my sixteen-year career writing about it. In that I am in good company. For centuries, writers have tried to understand and illustrate it, for as writers, it is our challenge and our privilege to show our readers what love looks like. This is what it looks like to me.
Sometimes love looks like a box of rocks.
Marty is the bus driver who brings my students to school every morning. One day, I noticed a box full of rocks sitting next to the driver’s seat, all of them relatively the same size, color and shape. There was nothing remarkable about any of them. Or so I thought. When I asked him what they were for, Marty grinned and said, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
I love stories that start with those words, for it usually means something wonderful will follow. I was not disappointed.
Marty explained that he had a new child on his route that year, a kindergartener named Sophia. Every morning when the bus pulled up to Sophia’s house, her dog — a big, old, sloppy hound dog named Gus, was waiting with her. Every afternoon when the bus rounded the bend in front of Sophia’s house, Gus would come running across the fields. He’d wait in the driveway, jumping and spinning, tail a-thumping. As soon as Sophia’s feet were safely on the ground, Gus would pick a rock from out of the driveway and gently lay it on steps of the school bus.
Gus was obviously head over heels in love. Because Marty brought Sophia home safe and sound every day, Gus wanted to give him something in return. To you and me, they are just a bunch of ordinary rocks. But to Gus, I’m sure they are fabulous treasures, appropriate payment for a job well done. There is nothing more unselfish than the love of a dog.
Sometimes love looks like a parakeet.
When my son was small, we liked to spend Sunday afternoons walking along a bicycle path near our home. As we walked, I’d point out common birds and tell my son their names, and he would try to imitate their songs. I was happy that he shared my interest in these lovely creatures.
On the Saturday before Mother’s Day, I came home from work to find my little boy waiting on the front porch, grinning from ear to ear. Before I was even out of the car, he ran to meet me. “I got you a present, Mommy,” he announced. “Come see. I got you two chickadees, one green, and one blue.” He took my hand and led me inside, where a cage held the loveliest pair of parakeets I had ever seen. There is nothing more precious than the love of a child.
On the day before my son’s high school graduation party, I was frazzled and overwhelmed. I was up to my elbows in streamers and balloons and macaroni salad when my friend Joyce’s Impala pulled into my driveway. She marched up to my door, rolled up her sleeves, and said, “Okay. Tell me what needs to be done.“ I nearly wept for joy. There is nothing more comforting than the love of a friend.
Love. It can look like a basket of freshly folded laundry, a lopsided birthday cake, or a mother’s last crumpled ten-dollar bill disappearing into her daughter’s gas tank. To poet Robert Burns love looked like a red red rose. To writer O. Henry, a platinum fob chain and a set of golden combs. To Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, love looked like a man hanging on cross, scorned and bleeding, a crown of thorns upon his head.
Love. It sacrifices and it transforms. It wounds and it heals. There is nothing more beautiful and nothing more powerful and nothing, nothing more important. Today, as you go about the business of living, take some time to look around you. Look hard. Look close. Look for the faces of love.