“I don’t get enough love”
– Jeremy (homeless man)
Regardless of whether you embrace religion or spirituality in any form, you have likely been admonished to love others as you love yourself. There’s a famous bible scripture where Jesus says similar words: Love your neighbor as yourself. Loving others as you love yourself can be difficult and often conditional for many of us. It often requires other people, usually unintentionally on our part, to look, believe, and act like us. But we can do better.
I want to share an experience I had that touched me deeply. A few winters ago Salt Lake City had a huge snow storm. It was cold, wet and tough to get around. As I was traversing the “fender benders” and trying to get back home I noticed a man, a homeless man, slowly walking by my car. I rolled down my window and asked him if he was okay. “Can you give me a ride?” He asked. “Now I had done it,” I thought to myself. “I should have never rolled down my window. What if he has a weapon?” More thoughts flooded my mind. “What if he wants money?” Hesitantly I said, “Sure, get in.” My thoughts had already betrayed the “love others as you love yourself” mantra.
As the disheveled man got in, a horrible odor engulfed my car and it was clear this man had not seen a shower in a very long time. Again more thoughts came to my mind, “I may need to shower or at least wash my clothes when I get home.” Or worse, “will this odor stay in my car?” I’m embarrassed to say, but no thoughts of love or kindness were in my heart at that time, only feelings of inconvenience and a lack of compassion.
My dog Louie was with me. He is a five pound yorkie and when in the car must be on my lap. The homeless man introduced himself as Jeremy and reached out to pet Louie.
Louie immediately greeted Jeremy just as he would anyone he meets, with tons of dog kisses. You could see this struggling, homeless man melt as my dog gave him love. For the next several minutes he pet Louie and enjoyed the love that my dog gave him, love that unfortunately I was unable to give. Louie didn’t see the filthy clothes. He didn’t notice the stench of body odor and alcohol. He just gave love.
As we arrived at our destination, the downtown homeless shelter, Jeremy commented on how loving Louie was and then, almost in a whisper, he said, “I don’t get enough love.” Jeremy got out of the car into the blustering snow storm, and was gone.
“I don’t get enough love.” It breaks my heart now as I ponder this statement.
That day I learned some very important lessons from my dog Louie. In moments given to us to give love to another person, we often give judgment and criticism instead. Just as I did with Jeremy. How we treat someone shouldn’t be determined by how a person dresses or smells. There is a natural tendency to let our social norms and preconceived notions, dictate our actions. Be aware of that tendency and stifle it when it comes by doing what Louie would do, give unconditional love.
What is unconditional love? Obviously it is giving love to all people regardless of the actions of that person. It is loving others as you love yourself. More importantly, it is an understanding that all people, regardless of life situations, are God’s greatest creation and have that divine heritage. It is an understanding that our notion of what is good and bad is simply our own preconceptions. Who is to say that one of Jeremy’s God-given missions in life isn’t to teach people like me to be more kind and loving? If that is the case, what a noble mission Jeremy’s life is engaged in.
I think Louie also taught me that the opposite of love is fear. Fear of the unknown is the root of hate, judgment, and lack of compassion.
I was quick to judge Jeremy because he wasn’t like me, he was the unknown. My fear of him caused me to think of all of the reasons I didn’t want to associate with him. Thoughts of danger or that he may take my money, were based on fear rather than truth. Jeremy had done nothing to merit my fear of him. I wonder how many other things in our life are dictated by our fear rather than love?
There are two things in this world in which there is an unlimited supply: love and hate. We talk a lot about love in inspirational blogs, but for some reason, love is dealt out as if it is some prized, rare resource only to be given to a select few; while hate is often poured out at will.
My commitment to you is that I will love at every possible opportunity, knowing that it is something that never runs out, and something that every person deserves. My commitment to you is that when I see someone different than me, I won’t measure them based on my preconceptions of what they should be, but accept them for what they are: a creation of divinity. My commitment to you is that I will do everything I can in hopes that no one feels like “they don’t get enough love.” I will do my best to love others as I love myself.
I will love…like Louie, and not just write an empty article. May we all learn from Louie.
You might also enjoy these articles:
How I Got Here
Making Loving Kindness a Way of Life