Courageous Love

It is easier to reach out in love to a person who is receptive and appreciates our love. It may require courageous love when that person is in a negative mood and is pushing us away. Too often we ignore the person when they are negative or put them down for being in a bad mood. When we do reach out, if we are rejected right away, we often give up. However, it is in those times when a person is least receptive that our love has the potential to have the greatest impact. This was recently brought to my attention in the following incident.
My eighty-three year old mother, Louise Wollenberg, is one of the friendliest people I have ever met. Much to my brother’s and my dismay when we were younger, my mother had so many friends that a simple stop to pick up bread could seemingly take forever due to the many friends she would meet. If she didn’t know anyone, by the time the stop was over she would have made a new friend.

On a Saturday recently, we decided we would take her and John-Nuri, our eleven year old son, out for breakfast to the Catalyst, a popular nightclub in downtown Santa Cruz. Our nineteen year old daughter, Mira, works there as a waitress to earn extra money for college. When we arrived we were delighted to see that we were the only ones there and so would have Mira all to ourselves. We were enjoying watching our daughter do her job, when a homeless man wandered in and bought a cup of coffee. He was in his late fifties and was mumbling to himself. Barry and I and our son did not notice him, though he was standing just ten feet from our table. My mother looked up from her meal at the man and smilingly said, “Good morning, sir.”

Abruptly the man started to yell at her, “Don’t you know it’s impolite to stare at homeless people? No one understands us!”

My mother continued to smile at him as if nothing had happened and said, “I thought you were one of my friends. I work with the homeless through my church.”

The man still grumbled and said, “You shouldn’t stare at us!” He then sat down at the next table with his back to us, muttering to himself about people not understanding homeless people. After several minutes he became quiet. We continued our meal and gradually forgot about the incident.

Suddenly the man turned around and spoke directly and clearly to my mother, “Thank you for smiling at me, Mam. I’m sorry I barked back at you. It’s been such a long time since someone treated me with respect like you just did. Your kindness has helped me.” As we later left the restaurant the man smiled at us and waved good-by.

I am sure that my mother’s kindness made a difference in that man’s life. She reached out past his negativity and extended her love and friendly attitude.

The other day John-Nuri came home from his soccer practice in a grumpy mood. Usually he is bright and enthusiastic, so his mood surprised me. He had gotten kicked by accident and his leg hurt, plus he had lost his favorite pair of footwear, very used and comfortable sandals. I tried talking to him and doing nice things for him. Whatever I did seemed to be the wrong thing and soon it was looking to him like it was all my fault that he wasn’t happy. I reached out and hugged him and told him that I loved him very much and that I was so proud of the wonderful person he is. I meant and felt what I said. I left the room to begin dinner, and soon he came up to me and gave me a big hug. I had been able to see past his grumpy mood and see the precious boy that I love so much.

It’s even more important to use courageous love with our partners, even though that is often the hardest thing to do for most people. Reaching out to our partner when they are in a negative mood can be hard enough as it is, but if that love is rejected it can be very painful. Often couples just don’t try. However we need to know and understand that pure love coming from our heart will eventually reach its mark.
Sometimes I feel upset about something and without even realizing how it started I can take out that mood on Barry. Sometimes he doesn’t react and just reaches out and hugs me and tells me that he loves me. I may even grumble a bit more, but the energy behind it is gone and soon I am allowing him to give me the love and support I needed all along.

Love, kindness, thoughtfulness and caring are very powerful energies of themselves. It is a wonderful feeling to see the outpouring of our hearts be received and appreciated. However, whether we see the impact of our reaching out in love or not, it has still been powerful and is enough to make a positive difference.

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