It was a rainy Tuesday morning, and I was engrossed in rounding up a draft Press Release. Nothing else mattered until I could click the send button. At least, so I planned until I was greeted by a fragile familiar voice.
“Good morning ma, how is work?” Still faced down, determined not to be distracted, I kept typing on the keyboard as I responded. “Work is great. Thank you and good morning too” hoping that the door will shut after my response.
“Aunty, it is I. Your sumptuous meat pie and doughnut seller”. “I came to greet all my customers” the intruder added.
At this statement, my brain joggled, and my fingers stopped working. Sure, I could recall the slim young lady that stopped by my office twice or thrice a week, convincingly advertising her pastries. Although I wasn’t her customer, as I had always believed if I ever get to patronize her, it would be to pay for the advertisement rather than the pie.
“Good morning Ma/Sir, do you care for my delicious, sumptuous meat pie and doughnuts? Try it, you will like it, it’s just…” This was one of her pre COVID-19 ad-lines, backed with an ever-smiley face that would not be deterred by a “no thank you” response. Fast forward to a couple more days, she will be at the same spot recasting the melodious rhythm.
This time, in the spirit of accolades for every post COVID-19 survivor, I deliberately paused to enquire on her wellbeing. Alas! There she was at the same spot with her familiar smile. Today though, she wasn’t carrying her self-acclaimed sumptuous display package of snacks, but a baby tied to her back. She wasn’t looking like her usual self. She was frail. Before I could form the words on my heart, she was already speaking, “Aunty, I have a baby, he is a boy”.
“Oh! Congratulations, how are you both doing? Moving closer to her back to check in on the baby, I asked about her baby’s missing headgear and one stocking”? I asked hoping to get the cliché “We are fine”. Alas, I was wrong!
It was reel of episodes that followed. A long touching story. She wasn’t doing well at all. The summary of her ordeal was that she had fallen in love with a certain guy who promises her so much. Their love escapade has resulted in 3 children- the oldest being five years. The cute malnourished 6-9 months old boy is their third child and might not be the last. She claimed that the father of her children was supporting them with the little income he was earning. I wondered how!
“I will start selling from tomorrow so I can buy him milk and complete clothes” she stressed while ending her narrative in a manner that was self-consoling and convincing too.
Knowing what it had come down to, I offered her a nearby seat so she could rest and fed her baby. I gave her what I could spare too, following which I had a heart-to-heart discussion with her, without coming off as judgmental.
Contrary to my initial plan for the morning and feeling grudgingly relieved that my guest’s countenance when leaving was much better than she had arrived, I finished my draft and clicked the send button hoping she would heed to all my advice.
Throughout that day, I couldn’t get mind off the thoughts surrounding my encounter with the ‘sumptuous snacks seller’.
While narrating her story, I noticed she kept on repeating the word ‘LOVE’ countless times. I was beginning to rethink the meaning of this beautiful word called love; as there was nothing about her that showed that she knew the actual meaning of the word.
As she went on and on, it got me downcast. All I could see was a victim of misconception and ignorance. Behind that smile were streams of pain and ignorance. She wasn’t the first young lady I would have a tete a tete with on the issue of love, the unplanned pregnancies cushioned by freebees and empty promises and the reality that sets in thereafter. I feared that these self-degrading cases are on the increase.
Experience has revealed that while we sometimes cannot choose what comes our way, our approach to the underlining consequences matter a lot and is a defining factor to our redemption and breakthroughs.
For decades the word love has been constantly misused, abused and most times overrated to suit some selfish purposes other than its noble worth. The charades of falsehood around love makes me wonder! Especially when I hear the lists of misguided and unrealistic expectations attached to the word.
You will hear people saying, “I love you” way too often than they understand or even mean it. Others are building a fool’s castle on the hype “we are in love”. Then comes the regrets… “I thought he (or she) loves me”,” My heart is broken”, “I have been betrayed”, “I will never fall in love again”. Far too many cases of young men and women spending their precious lives feeling depressed, dejected, enslaved and worthless. All in contradiction of the essence of the word. One thing is certain: If this beautiful word called love is mostly misunderstood, then it’d be causing more damage than any other.
In my quest to seek answers, these are my findings on what love is and what it is not.
The Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary defines love as “a very strong feeling of liking and caring for somebody/something especially a member of your family; A strong feeling of romantic attraction for somebody; the strong feeling of pleasure that something gives you; a person, a thing or an activity that you like very much”.
With these definitions, one feature here is that love infuses a feeling.
Further research shows that there are up to four capacities of the love bond that we can express: Empathy, Friendship, Romance, and Unconditional love. While the first three bonds could infuse feelings, the last capacity borders around the whole humanity trusting God and being kind and patient with one another. This doesn’t necessarily spark a feeling. But a choice! A responsibility! An expression that factors the next person. A front facing consideration for the other person. Not how I feel.
Drawing from the Holy scriptures, the book of I Corinthians 13:4-8
“Love is patient and kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth”.
Matthew 22:36-40 is another scripture where the concept of love is addressed
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”.
The first show of love is to be kind and to care for oneself. This is because you can only give what you have, what you know and what you can express. Thereafter, you qualify to extend these attributes to the next person.
Love cannot therefore be reduced to a feeling alone. It must combine the element of neighborliness.
Drawing my conclusion, love is a strong feeling of liking oneself, or another, or a thing; but which places a demand, a responsibility, and an acceptance that meets certain thresholds of sacrifices that will make life better for oneself and by extension, another.
I told the sumptuous pastry seller, “Babies cost money and time. You should not just have them because you can. That comes the responsibility element of love. Not just promises and hope that is not backed up by commensurate action. With these, you will know when you are being deceived or abused”. Love is responsibility!!! Love is beautiful!!! Love is truthful!!!
What then is love not? Love is not mere infatuation. And it is not selfish, possessive, boastful, abusive, or oppressive.
Although this post does not exhaust the entire concept of LOVE, hopefully, it has spurred you to rethink your understanding and usage of the wonderful word LOVE and that by it you exhaled, smiled, learned, and have been motivated today. Do have a blessed month🤗.
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