Whether you are listening to the radio, on the phone with a family member, picking an entrée off the dinner menu or reading a book, the word or the subject of love is guaranteed to make an appearance. We hear love, see love, act in love, and even feel love. But what does the four-letter word really mean? To every person, the definition and reason for it can vary tremendously. To generalize the term, dictionary.com says that love means having affection towards a place, person or thing that you or anyone else truly cares for and has a personal attachment with. Although most people can relate to the general definition, it is always inspiring to hear the reason and story behind one’s love for another person place or thing. Today, I will share some stories of love that I have personally experienced.
To me, love is more than an internal feeling; it is about expressing that feeling to convey the mental love you have in a physical way as well because often times, actions speak louder than words. Examples of actions that portray love would be the selfless deeds that my mom does on a daily basis. One example of the countless things that my mom does is when just a few weeks ago I somehow managed to forget all my schoolwork I needed for class at home, and she dropped what she was doing to meet my halfway on the trip to get it to me as fast as possible. Even though this is a small act that many may think might not be of large significance, it was to me. She put my needs before hers, she put herself in my shoes to better understand what I was going through, and she loves me enough to understand how much I appreciated her and what she did. Just as it was said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
If you had heard this story out of context, or heard that your friend called mom for some help in a sticky situation, would you think much of it? Would you relate it to love? My guess is most likely not. That is why, during this time of Advent, I encourage you to focus on some of the smaller things in life, and break them down to the roots to appreciate the deeper meaning. When someone commits a selfless act, reaches out to you in a time of need, or simply just wants to spend time with you even in better times, think of love. Think of the value of your relationship and the confidence and strength you instill in one another. Eating lunch with your friends in Dion may be a daily, weekly or monthly act, but spending time with those friends is worthwhile because of the sentimental value of love, the passion and attachment you have.
I am not the first person that has tried to define “love”. You can listen to any one of thousands of songs, read any number of poems or flip through an infinite number of pictures that try to tell you. But an attempt at defining love is not why I am writing this. I am writing this because I CAN’T tell you how you should define love. The beauty of our world is that everyone is entitled to an opinion, and most have the freedom to express them. The downside of this barrage of opinions from others is that we are often made to feel like we must have identical beliefs – we need to “dress like him” or “think like her”. Sometimes, this is ok, but sometimes it is not; it becomes a slippery slope when deciding whether we are doing things because we feel a particular way or whether we are told by someone else to feel that way.
Now you might be thinking it is quite hypocritical for a professor to be saying not to conform to norms when, as a scientist, I work in a field based on developing such norms. But the difference is that science doesn’t tell us what love is. Only we can define it for ourselves.
So all I can do is tell you what love is for me. Love is the feeling of being tiny in a great big universe whenever I am walking under a sky full of stars. Or it’s when I hear the chorus of “DADDY”s when I get home from a long day of work. Or it’s when I see a passerby pick up a discarded coffee cup from the ground and throw it away, unaware that someone was watching. Over time, I have come to realize that my definition of love, whether expressed through nature, my family or the the human spirit, all carries a common thread of helping me feel complete. For me, that is what love is all about.
I hope that you all find love in your lives no matter what form it takes or how long it takes
to find it.
The Advent season is a time where we attempt to do just that. We try to put aside any and all grievances we might have had with each other and put others’ needs before our own. Of course Advent is a Christian tradition, but the values of the tradition should not be limited to any creed or any specific time of the year. For me, the Advent season doesn’t hold much meaning from a religious standpoint. However, I know it to be a season of giving, caring, and love. And that is exactly what I try to do every year around the holidays. I want to help build the atmosphere of joy, not because a religion tells me to, but because it is simply…good. There should never be any barrier holding us back from being good to one another. No matter our religious preference or what time of the year it is, it is our duty to make this atmosphere of joy a reality. And it is so unbelievably simple to help and create joy in others – whether it’s giving to charity, volunteering, or even something as effortless as a smile. Any show of compassion, no matter how small, can foster joy and create the atmosphere we aspire to have.
Growing up, I always wanted many things. As I matured, though, I became more aware of needing things versus wanting things. Priorities are different for each individual and family and, for many, needing things becomes a reality.
As humans, we each are hustling and bustling at times to accomplish many tasks on a daily basis. Especially during Advent, we must take time to share, encourage and pray for those we love and care for in our community, be it neighbors or strangers. Taking the time to lend a hand to those who need the most guidance, assistance, and support through kindness can benefit those around us. Reaching out to those who need additional support to get back on the right path is not only fulfilling for us, but, most of all, it provides joy that makes a difference in someone else’s life.
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
Week 2 Advent Reflection
Jessica Keefe, Class of 2016
Finding peace in my life can be very hard at times. Sometimes I feel as though there is no time to stop and take time for myself. While finally finishing up my degree and working full time, it is nearly impossible to even find a minute that I don’t already have something scheduled throughout the day.
It is easy to get caught up in the little things that happen but I have realized that making time for myself and my faith will help me to find peace, rather than using all my energy trying to please everyone else.