I was in my hometown of Grand Junction, CO this week for the first time in about three years, and I was fortunate enough to spend some wonderful time with lots of wonderful people while at home. While catching up with my friend and one of my personal sheroes, Terri, we got onto the topic of Love and its incredible power. While talking, Terri mentioned that one of the most important lessons she has learned in life is that people “have no capacity for love.”
When she first said that, I was taken aback. After all, I am used to using the term Capacity as “the capability to perform or produce.” I thought, “It is so unlike Terri to think that we have no capability to perform or produce love.” However, Terri was referring to Capacity in more the sense of “the maximum production possible.” Simply said, we can never run out of love. She told me of when she had her first child how she had thought that there was NO WAY she could ever love anything as much as she loved that child. Then came her second child, and her love grew to hold two. Then came her third child and her love only grew some more. Today she works with young people, and her love only continues to grow.
Her wisdom struck me. She is exactly right. We can’t hope to contain love. There is no point in saving up our love for fear that we might run out. The true beauty of the human condition is that we can love unconditionally, we can love in many forms, and we can love endlessly.
That very night, I carried this wisdom with me as I went to meet some old friends who I hadn’t seen in many years. Sean and I were best friends throughout most of high school, but my hardheadedness and immaturity led me to hurt and alienate him in our senior year. We grew apart, and sadly, I wasn’t around as he discovered the true anti-capacity of love, got married, and had a beautiful daughter. As I drove to meet him and his wife Brittny, I was nervous . . . I was meeting his daughter for the first time, and in the few interactions since we began to grow apart, whenever politics or race or religion came up, Sean, Brittny, and I had walked away frustrated. He and his wife don’t see the world quite the way that I do, and our conversations on world view had, in the past, led to frustrating impasses. Driving to meet them, I knew that our conversation would inevitably turn to difficult subject matter as they would inquire about the nature of my work these days. Part of me wanted to avoid the conversation.
The first meeting was quite friendly, though, and we mostly avoided the difficult conversations about race or class or religion that I was afraid of having. A few nights later, though, we were together again, and Sean and Brittny and I ended up diving into a long conversation that ranged from race to class to politics to health care and food production. Instead of being uncomfortable, though, the relationship of that conversation was one of love. We agreed. We disagreed. We found middle ground, and we departed from middle ground. All throughout, though, we did so respectfully and openly. We were building a relationship of loving discourse where we listened to and respected each other’s life experiences.
In “The Wall,” a key theme that I stress is that relationships are vital to us building a more just world. Only through working within ourselves while reaching out to build accountable relationships with people who are like us and different from us can we hope to dismantle the prejudice, bigotry, and hate that has come to characterize so many of our interactions with other people. We have to reach out and be willing to have the difficult conversations about race, religion, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and so many more topics that we avoid out of fear, just as I had wanted to avoid the conversation with Sean and his wife.
When we entered the conversation in the light of Terri’s wisdom, though, those tough conversations brought me closer to Sean and Brittny. Those tough conversations brought me closer to Terri. They brought me closer to my friends Stacie and Brandon. They brought me closer to Sean’s dad Bill, with whom I had an amazing two-hour conversation about race and politics inspired by my recent blog on White Privilege. My time at home was one of relationship building and capacity-breaking love all because I and the people with whom I was sharing my time were willing to have tough, accountable conversations . . . conversations that no matter the subject matter always ended in a hug.
I am incredibly thankful to Terri, Sean, Brittny, Bill, Stacie, Brandon, my parents, and the others in my life who open themselves to these conversations. They remind me that I have no capacity for love. They push me to work harder for justice. They give me hope that together, we can build a more just world.
Peace be the Journey.