by Ron Cook
December contains several secular, as well as religious, celebrations. December also marks the end of one year, wrapping up 2019 to bring in 2020. Someone once said, “Love is the reason for the season.” When we think of love, what comes to mind at this time of year? What might be the different expressions of love as we close out this year? What kinds of love are contained in the ways that we celebrate this time of year?
A research into moral/ethical development once cited several stages of growth in our walk through life. The first stage is about a proper and appropriate concern for yourself. Babies tend to mostly be in the realm of needing love more than giving love. They are cute (most of the time), yet require a great deal of care. Wise parents insure those needs are met. They insure the child does not become frustrated or lacking in the areas of comfort, food, safety and affection. This helps the child to feel secure that they are in care, and worth care. As the child becomes a toddler and an adolescent, they learn to do caring things for others. This begins the expression of loving. First is a love for family, then an appropriate concern for community, state, country, and the world of humanity and all sentient things. This might be known as scaling the ladder of loving.
During this season, it is helpful to see where our particular gifts of caring might be appreciated. Love takes many forms. A love for those who love you is the first we learn. This love is a kind of equal-measure sharing. Loving new people takes on an element of risk. Loving strangers is a more demanding form of love perhaps. Loving those who do not love you might be the most difficult form of love’s expression.
Gifting others with your love can have different levels, as well. Giving and receiving gifts is a normal practice at this time of year. Perhaps, if we are to challenge our levels of loving, we could offer gifts to others who can not return a gift to us. Volunteering at The Manna House, making a contribution to the Salvation Army, and looking for other service opportunities at this time of year might be an opening door for us to explore giving without receiving.
Looking to the needs of others is a form of loving kindness that can be started during this time of year. The grace-filled soulful rewards of giving without receiving, can create a practice in us, a practice that expands our vision of life, our belief in goodness. Sometimes this can take us outside of ourselves to a wonderful new place of loving. It is said that, “love loves, and people change.” It is also said that, “We should always give from our extra so that we can give it freely. If we give from our need, we will have to get something back.” So we can start by insuring that we know we are loved. From that extra we go on to love … first our loved ones … and then others.
In Louisiana, the culture encourages you to reach out and seek the other. Kindness, hospitality, generosity and genuine interest in others pervades each community. In Louisiana, it seems the larger purpose of life is understood as a celebration of life with others.
My wish for you this season is to recognize and appreciate how you are loved … and then consider how you might share that love with others.