After the miscarriage of Celia Rose last fall, I confided in a friend who had experienced the same kind of loss. She told me that through her grief, the words that rang the loudest came from her husband, who told her simply, “Focus on love.”
I wrote those words down and put them by my front door. They are now the last thing I read when I walk out of my house and the first thing when I walk in. Still, I forget sometimes. I get lost in my own fear and anxiety about any old topic, and it can turn into negativity, then grumpiness, then despondency, then anger, then rage.
It is easy to feel afraid and all the rest of it these days, especially with regards to the critically ill and increasingly evil social and political climate in our country. It’s much harder to focus on love, which is why I know that must be my chore, my commitment, my practice.
We must focus on love. Too many of us have forgotten. But, when one person remembers, even a little bit, it’s contagious. It reminds someone else.
Earlier this fall, I drove our aging pickup truck to town and the starter went out in a store parking lot. An elderly man noticed me kneeling by the front tire, reaching a screw driver up into the works of the truck, trying to jump the starter solenoid. I could get it to spark, but nothing else. He offered to help and brought a friend who drove his car around to jump the battery at the same time. They worked on my truck for a good while to no avail and then kindly advised I run over to the auto garage across the street and ask for help. A busy mechanic took pity on me, left his full garage and ringing phones and came with me across the street. He also tried for a time and then gave me the free diagnosis: the starter was shot.
Long story short, I called in the home-team Calvary, and the starter got changed right there in the parking lot. I had sat there in my truck and cried for a time, feeling helpless and angry (and all the emotional pregnancy hormones). But people had offered their help, their love. And I immediately felt less alone.
A different time, as the same truck downshifted to slow for the upcoming border crossing, the transmission went out. I pulled the truck to the side of the road in “no-man’s land” – that small stretch of road between the US and Canadian border crossings – and killed, started and re-started the engine, the only thing I knew to do when the transmission wouldn’t engage. I was near tears of frustration again when there was a tap on my window. An officer from the Canadian agency had heard the transmission drop, left his duties and walked the distance out to us. He knew there was nothing to be done with the vehicle and so he asked my young daughter and I to please feel free to wait inside while the tow truck came. For the next forty-five minutes, he turned his office desk and computer into a Netflix viewing cubicle where my daughter introduced him to her favorite cartoon while she colored and ate his snacks. They chattered and laughed and became fast friends as I watched for our rescue vehicle.
Again, unwarranted, a stranger had offered help, love in a time of minor crisis and it made all the difference in our little world.
I left my nice, new smartphone at a restaurant in Warroad once and headed north for The Angle. I had disabled the locking mechanism, and the employee who found it used that fact not to her advantage but to mine. She texted the last person I had texted, asked them to get in touch with me through other means and a day later I had my expensive phone back in hand. Her kindness, her love, saved me an embarrassing amount of money and hassle, and I’m so grateful.
Some time ago, I ran over a softball-sized rock on the pavement in Sprague. I thought nothing of it until I reached the US border crossing. The customs agent noticed my low tire, aired it up for me and then escorted me to the tire-repair shop fifteen+ miles away just so I wouldn’t become stranded on the side of the road. The tire made it all that way but barely. Before I could thank him or even offer a smile for his kindness, he pulled back out into traffic and left.
He had simply helped a stranger; he had loved, and he needed nothing in return.
These are only a few examples of recent times in my life when people have offered love in the form of kindness and help. They had focused on love, likely without even realizing it, and it altered the course of my day, perhaps my life.
Yes, it is easier to feel afraid and angry, but it’s more natural to feel love. When we’re not thinking about ourselves and our stories, love is what naturally comes out of us as human beings. Through loss, through grief, through fear of so many unknowns, love is still there waiting to be used, to be spread, to be offered like the most beautiful gift that it is.
In every crisis, personal or national or global, I can think of no better advice than “focus on love.” It’s our superpower, and it’s time to put it to good use.
(Published in the October 30th issue of the Warroad Pioneer)