I once read somewhere that there are two types of people, those that give love and those that cry for love.
For years I’ve moved back and forth between the two. Recently I’ve lacked hope that others can truly change and be more loving. Some of this comes from personal tribulations, others from the constant stream of tragedy on the news. I try not to judge, often going through a list of understandings that ranges anywhere from cultural differences, upbringing, or just an individual’s character.
Ironically, the revelation is that it takes God to change the world, something I thought I always believed, but did not wholeheartedly put my faith in. After all, it is easier to pray that someone will change while constantly looking for that change in the person’s actions. The truth is this is not fully giving it all to God. In fact, it is hoping that your prayer and correction is enough, like sowing a seed and looking at your watch. Go ahead, look at your watch! That plant should begin to blossom in two to three weeks (yes, sometimes I find myself counting the day when someone will change). I’ve learned the hard truth – that this is barely ever the case. For one, a person can’t change for you. It may appear that they can, but the inconsistency of that change will show over time. You will be burdened with the task of trying to teach the person to behave in a way you deem appropriate or justify your teaching methods by telling yourself your making that person better, and the person will assume you don’t think he or she is a great or good enough person. Accepting people the way they are often depends on what you’re willing deal with as a friend, significant other, or dare I say, a family member.
I was blessed to grow up in a large family, it taught me to navigate the world in a way that a college education never could. In my family there were six different personalities that I woke up to everyday. My mother taught me to sacrifice for others by always giving first. My father taught me to accept others through his friendships with the poor and homeless. My sisters taught me the meaning of kindness by constantly asking about my day and sharing ideas about the world. My brothers taught me patience by talking only when they had something important to say. By arguing about childish issues with my sisters (tv shows, shared clothes, and friends to name a few), my sisters and I developed a bond, because we always came back to each other. Often times we returned with a half hearted sorry, a peace offering that consisted of food, a clothing item, or a suggested walk around the neighborhood. It wasn’t until later in life that I understood how we internalized such acts of love. As I got older we grew closer, offering advice, sharing disappointments, and even making plans to meet each other throughout the country. We had family phone conferences, a GroupMe account, and more countless hours of meaningless conversations.
But, when I made friends I wondered why they couldn’t share or understand my need for consistent unconditional love. Recently, a friend told me “You need to stop comparing people to your family.”
I was stubborn, but I knew the comment came from a place of love. I wondered if I was just missing my family, or comparing what took years to develop with something that I expected to come naturally. I decided to give less of myself, to instead seek love rather than give it so abundantly.
I wondered why it was so hard for some people to just say “Hi, hello, and how are you?” within a minute of seeing me.
I wondered why “please and thank you” seemed like after thoughts to so many. But, most importantly I wondered what had happened to the process of developing consistent unconditional love. How it was easy for people to stop talking unless I offered the “Hello”, or the peace offering that came only if I was giving it. I began to wonder about the two types of people in the world.
When I started “giving love” again a colleague remarked that I seemed to be back to my usual self. That he and our mutual friend were wondering what happened. I held my tongue, again reminding myself that change comes from God; that I couldn’t expect this friend to suddenly be the giver that I wanted him to be. That if he were, he would have taken the time to have a meaningful (or meaningless) conversation with me when I too was crying for love.
I’ve learned that change varies from one person to another, that it’s all God’s timing. Ironically, I now tend to have more meaningless conversations with my brothers. My sisters and I tend to have focused well thought out discussions, sometimes with agendas already laid out and opinions already made. Both are wonderful conversations to be had, but I accept that the roles have shifted and I anticipate that they could shift again at any moment- that is the beauty of consistent unconditional love.
Someone asked me recently to state my opinion on the violent killings of African American men in America. I simply added, “there’s no love there.”
The same person asked me about the recent violence in Kenya, again I replied “there’s no love there.”
I simply meant that we cannot care for what we do not love. That even in the midst of a storm we run to save that which we care for, or rather, we save what we love. It’s the reason why sometimes roles shift. For my family, I realize I need meaningless conversations with my brothers to trust them with my well thought out “this is who I am” philosophies. We find ourselves just getting to know each other even though we’ve lived together. For my sisters I already know their philosophies, sometimes we laugh and say, “I knew you were going to say that.” It’s funny, but both my brothers and sisters are givers without my asking. Sometimes I sense the cry for love from them; most of the time I ask because I sense the storm coming.
Not a day goes by that I don’t pray for my family. In the midst of a storm, whether it is theirs, or mine, or imagined, I think of them first. They are the first to know of my fears, my dreams, my hopes. Even as I pray for the two types of people in the world I am reminded that God’s power is amazing, that only he can make those crying for love be givers of love. That only he can cover racism with love, and bring love to the hearts of terrorists. That his word encompasses an understanding of love that doesn’t take years to develop. That only he can build a family of givers into a nation of givers. That he is consistent unconditional love.