We are fully immersed in the winter season here in Minnesota, complete with dangerous windchill that discourages outside exposure longer than five minutes. Through these frigid months, I’ve been searching for beauty. Something to bring joy in this cold reality. Somewhere in this search I started thinking about the similarities between weather and people. Specifically, I’ve been considering how people’s behavior and winter weather include both brutally harsh (hatred and sub-zero windchill) and breathtakingly beautiful (love and the sunrise and moonrise through a frosted window pane). I’ve been considering how these two extremes affect us; and how we often see the former while longing for the latter. Sometimes the hatred around us is so obvious that it all but overcomes the naturally much quieter voice of love. It’s easy to get discouraged with the bitterness that saturates our news, not to mention the tragedies and unthinkable horrors that occur in our neighborhoods and around the world.
It’s discouraging that with all our knowledge, understanding, and awareness we still haven’t reached a place of equality, opportunity, and peace. Clearly, we still have a long way to go. There are days I just stop reading the news. It is easy to think that if I’m not informed I can at least enjoy my life. When it seems that every headline emphasizes how terrible things are, how corrupt people are, or some doomsday reflection on the present times, I find it difficult to believe there’s anything good happening (or anyone good out there). Which leads to a sense of defeat, exhaustion, and, ultimately, indifference. Because, really, if things are so indisputably awful, who am I to make any difference for the better?
While I was mulling over this question, I decided to read some of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches in anticipation of MLK Day. His speeches and sermons are packed with depth and cover a range of issues but I was particularly struck by his comments on love. Allow me to share an excerpt from “Where Do We Go From Here?”: “I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems…I’m talking about a strong, demanding love…hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love.” In his sermon, “The Most Durable Power,” he reiterates, “I still believe that love is the most durable power in the world.” And in “Loving Your Enemies,” Dr. King discusses a Greek term for a specific kind of love, “agape,” which he describes “agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love.” And, of course, one of his most famous phrases, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” As I reflected on this leader’s incredible wisdom and knowledge, I realized his passion and focus on truth and justice, combined with his emphasis on love, are things I do not hear enough. I’m in awe of the honest way he talked about love, even as he experienced and confronted intense, indefensible, hate. I was also struck by the clarity of his mission. As I pondered my ability to have an impact, he outlined a clear direction, to love. To love others, to treat everyone with kindness and respect, to model this for my kids, I can do that. In a time when it feels like there is nothing I can do, I can love.
This realization empowered me to push back against the idea that everything is decisively and irreversibly bad and there is nothing I can do, nothing we can do, because upon deeper reflection, yes, of course there are still opportunities to improve the state of things. I’m not minimizing the horrors that occur on a daily basis, nor am I suggesting we stop fighting for justice or change. Strong leaders with a clear vision are still needed. However, we also need to be reminded of the importance and power of love over hatred. An act of kindness, a message of encouragement, an extension of grace to someone who could use a little extra understanding, a show of support – there are so many ways to express love to a world filled with exhaustion, pain, and hatred.
Simple, quiet, helpful acts aren’t always sensational in the ways that destructive and hate-filled ones are. But they ARE powerful. Think about a time when someone was generous or giving or loving, and how the positive action made you feel. Think about the change that can be generated from love. Imagine the positive momentum this could create if everyone was intentionally creating these positive moments.
In this chaotic and anger-filled environment, I encourage you to take a moment to observe both the harsh as well as the beautiful around us and then do your part to contribute, in some small and personal way, to the underlying symphony of love that is present in the world.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents, having recently relocated to northern Minnesota. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
*photo credit: personal photos taken on a winter morning and evening*