Mr. Rogers once said that “love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like ‘struggle.’ To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now – and to go on caring even through times that may bring us pain.” A good Presbyterian minister, he was trying to point us toward that intentionality that is meant to exist in all of our relationships. Be they romantic, sibling. friend. neighbor, or even a stranger or enemy.
But sometimes, for someone to truly know they are loved, it takes not only active intention, but also concrete actions – as Extreme’s 1990 classic loves to remind us.
There is more to love than simply words. Or feelings. More than hugs and kisses. It takes standing with someone when trouble comes. It means being the silent worker behind the scenes so that those without a voice might finally sing. Its deliberate purpose to see others flourish, even when the world says they shouldn’t.
The first step is to work for these things in our relationships with those we love who are closest to us. Easy enough.
The next step is to do this work to bolster and support our neighbors and communities, most of which we also love with great camaraderie and energy. Especially for those of us who live and work with people we have grown close to, this should not be too far of a stretch.
Now here is the hard step: doing the active work of love for those you do not know.
Jesus taught us that if something should not happen to him or one of his disciples, then it should not happen to anyone. Put it another way: if you don’t want a certain thing done to you, then you should not only not do it to others – you should work so that no one ever has it done to them. Period.
Christ took the golden rule and put it on steroids.
Because it’s not just about what you do as an individual. It is also about what we do as a community. The choices we make, the leaders we support, the ways we structure our lives – all of it is our responsibility.
So, to follow a bit in the footsteps of my favorite Presbyterian pastor, let’s put this in the simplest of terms: all the world’s a playground and here are the rules…
- Treat each other with kindness.
- Wear clothes that the given season calls for: if summer, enjoy your shorts. If winter, don’t forget your snow boots. If hurricane, bring an umbrella. If Covid, wear your mask.
- Throw your trash away and recycle everything you can. We only have one home, so take care of it.
- Don’t throw stones and don’t call each other names – it’s just bad form.
- Do use your voice to ask questions and raise up problems that need to be addressed.
- Do stand up to bullies. Stand together and they cannot break you.
- Remember that our words have power, to heal and to hurt. Choose them wisely.
- Most importantly: you already have the strength inside you to make the world a better place. A kinder place. A more loving place. The world God desires to see.
Simple enough. Now go and do likewise.