A friend recently told me that in some parts of Latin America, Valentine’s Day is known as the Day of Love AND Friendship. Often though, instead of friendship, we reserve this little heart-shaped holiday only for romantic love, meaning many of us miss out. Deliberately! I know you’re thinking, “Says the girl who is newly single.” Sure, sure, I suppose that’s one reason I want to be more inclusive, but really, I’m not simply talking about the holiday-more about love period. It seems we spend our lives looking for a partner. If that quest doesn’t work out, in our understandable disappointment, we lose sight of all the other forms of love that surround us.
On Being recently aired an episode which illuminated this for me. Krista Tippett interviewed Kate Braestrup, a Universalist Unitarian chaplain for the game warden in Maine. In her work, she witnesses many atrocities, and yet she sustains herself by finding love. She says:
“I don’t look for God or God’s work in magic or in tricks or in, you know, saying “this is what I want” and then I get it. I look for God’s work always in how people love each other, in just the acts of love that I see around me.”
She describes in the interview how even amidst tragedy, you can see the love in the situation by the people who surround the person who is suffering. It doesn’t mean seeing love in every action, because there is certainly violence and oppression in the world. But when a community of people reach out in compassion to the person who has been hurt or to the family that has experienced loss, that is love-the beauty within the pain.
Let’s be real. Last year was tough for me personally. The New Year came in 2012 and I remember announcing that it was going to be a banner year. Then, my mom had a stroke, I got divorced, and Nancy moved to a far off land called Boston. “Banner” indeed.
Needless to say, the grief cycle and I became quite well acquainted. I was actually thinking of designing a game with a little wheel that you can spin, and a slick game show voice announces, “What stage of the grief cycle are you on now? Denial! Depression! No! Back to denial!” Let’s just say in the last 3 months, I’ve cried twice in Target. Good grief. (Ha! A pun!)
Looking back, I can see that despite all of these tough life-changing events, in the moments I felt my worst, the giant universe seemed to send me love in all sorts of little ways. An unknown postman once walked with me across campus and performed an entire standup routine for me, complete with props. Other friends welcomed me onto their patios for summer drinks and therapy sessions. During some of my darker moments, a new cohort warmly welcomed me into their tight-knit community theater. I received notes from family and friends at just the times I needed them. Two different strangers paid for my over-priced coffee addiction. Free coffee. Twice.
So on this Valentine’s Day, I am grateful. My eyes are open to see the love that “radiates and overflows upon the outward world.” Thank you for doing that for me, friends and you lovelies I don’t even know. Universe, be mine.