Mother Theresa said, “Spread love everywhere you go, first of all in your own house...Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” The friendly “Kia Orana!” greeting to visitors is a first gift of love they receive here.
I have never lived anywhere I felt more widespread affection and love than here on these islands. And it isn’t only the traditional hugs and kisses, sweet as they are. It is the open-hearted receptivity to friendship, the sense of family that is strong enough to let others in. Someone said to me, “You know why you feel so at home here, Linda? Because you and Papa Dan are part of the family.” Many families here have feeding children. Elders who live on their own after a partner has died are looked after with frequent visits. People add to one another’s fruit bowls and share the fish they catch. Even though Dan and I are relatively new to these islands, we have already had invitations to be buried on others’ family land when our time comes. At this age, that is a true gift of love, a source of blessed assurance.
One of the most precious forms of love is found in genuine friendship. Alice Walker writes, “I don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends I can be certain of.” The friends who come to be with us when we need them are a treasure in our lives. They show love in several ways:
- They are our story keepers. They are interested in what is happening to us day to day, and listen with compassionate accuracy.
- When life tests us, they don’t rush to comfort or advise us out of our teachable moments. They care enough to support us and to confront us. In a speech at Brigham Young University, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “I believe with all my heart that because God loves us there are some particularised challenges that he will deliver to each of us. He will customise the curriculum for each of us in order to teach us the things we most need to know. He will set before us in life what we need, not always what we like.”
- True friends are as comfortable with our tears as our laughter. We can tell them anything and trust they will never talk behind our backs.
- They help us love ourselves by mirroring the good they see in us. The Baha’i Writings say, “I loved thy creation, therefore I created thee, engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee my beauty.” When we see someone reflecting the Divine in the way they act, it is loving to tell them: “That took courage.” “Thank you for your loyalty.” “Jesus taught, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
If we are to love others as ourselves, we need first to love ourselves, not in a selfish way, but in a way that honors who we truly are – God’s masterpiece. Remember, God never makes junk!