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52 Ways to Show "I Love You," Part 2

A brief encyclopedia of love and loving

Source: Geralt/Pixabay
Holiday Shop Window/Roni Beth Tower
Source: Holiday Shop Window/Roni Beth Tower

Today I wish you “Merry Christmas," “Happy Hanukkah," or ask “Habari gani?” of those who celebrate Kwanzaa. I say, “Have a wonderful day,” to people whose beliefs fall outside a formal tradition. May you all enjoy a glorious 2017, filled with blessings. This is indeed the season of miracles, even for those who do not believe in a mystical origin to the good things that come to us from sources outside the lines of empirically validated causality.

I find love to be just that kind of blessing, a miracle that is invisible but nonetheless real. On my personal blog, Love is Real, I share stories and musings that support my thesis, from cosmic examples to the most intimate ones.

Last week I described here my commitment to broadening appreciation for loving in 2017 by devoting the year to exploring ways in which we can better express love and appreciate the efforts of others to show that they are offering love. Communicating across our boundaries of culture and family history, across messages sent by the media that fail to resonate with an individual heart, seems the perfect way to welcome in a new year.

Next Sunday, I will begin posting “52 Ways to Say I Love You." As described last week, the initiative will explore expressions of love as experienced by real people, researched by psychologists, and perhaps examined by philosophers. Each week, readers will be invited to contribute descriptions of their own encounters with the experience of loving and being loved, anecdotes about it, or questions concerning it.

Love takes many, many forms. It can be found as we enter the world around us, during activities we engage in, through connections between and among people. It can be as specific as a parent and an infant learning to mirror each other. Throughout the animal kingdom and even across species, from animal to human and back again, a parent is often compelled to nurture and nourish a baby, and to mimic its expressions as a way of signaling understanding. A romantic couple, joined together through their passion and discovery of each other, adopts songs of love. A caregiving companion, wedded through compassion and sometimes history to the soul needing help, ignores his or her own needs to provide service. A friend listens and supports.

A less personal compassionate love can be seen in a society’s commitment to providing the young with healthy meals that feed body and soul, or a stranger putting his own life at risk to save someone from suicide. Love can manifest through ties of blood, ties of commitment, or simply ties of humanity. It can be nourished through similarities or differences, the former providing validation through understanding, the latter permitting us to grow by appreciating what we can bring to each other.

I have loved writing about great big issues like documentation of the discovery of the mysterious Higgs Boson. And small personal moments like a granddaughter nearly flying across the high school lawn to hug my husband when he picked her up dressed in his improvised chauffeur uniform. Through anonymous demonstrations of love that have pulled at my heartstrings like my encounter with Sasha the service dog to a new appreciation of a gift in the legacy my mother left me, I have witnessed love through a prism, trying to capture reflections and angles and, above all, the sparkle of the light it reflects. To embrace it all.

Now it will be your turn. Beginning next Sunday, each week I will focus on a single way to express love. I hope that you will chime in with examples from your own life or that of another whose experience touched you deeply. By the end of the year, we will have a brief encyclopedia of love – ways to express it, ways to receive it, ways to honor and cherish it. Hopefully, we will learn from each other and be inspired. Try a new approach or expression, be surprised.

Hopefully, together, we will add to the love in this land during the year 2017 and beyond. Because it matters. Because love is real.

Copyright 2016 Roni Beth Tower

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