Those of you who know me personally know that often say that when I was a teenager, my older cousin Mike died. Mike was ten years older than me, he taught me to love the Boston Bruins and Saturday Night Live, irritated me by singing the Alka-Seltzer song, protected me, and helped me put together my gerbil house.
When Mike died, our little extended family felt it deeply. It rocked us all to the core, and the loss still reverberates. Every single time I hear the name Bobby Orr, I think of Mike, and I grieve anew that we never got to get to know each other as adults. But, one thing that came out of his death was that we all got better at saying “I love you” to each other. Let’s be realistic here, our extended family and our family life was not all roses, puppies and unicorns. We dealt with our grandmother being killed, mental health issues, addiction, infidelity, major health issues, and lots of other really fun stuff. But even at our darkest moments, we told each other that we love each other, and we meant it, and mean it still.
Loving someone is not always easy. Liking people can be pretty easy. Love is so much deeper than that. Love is caring how the person is, even when you want to smack them. Love is being willing to stay up all night holding someone’s hand, even when you think they have made the wrong decision. Love is being able to forgive.
As I’ve said so many times before, Sam was and is love. Sam cared how people were, and wanted people to feel love and acceptance, and feel valued. Over and over, people still come to us and say, “he didn’t judge me,” “he accepted me for who I am,” “he asked me to sit with him at lunch,” “he made eye-contact with me.” It didn’t matter to Sam if someone agreed with his political views or not, he still saw them as humans, as worthy of being loved. Sometimes he would actively pick an opposing view for a conversation, just to get the other person thinking, but it was never done with malice or hatred.
I think about that a lot right now. I keep saying “the world” is a chaotic and sad place right now, but what I am really saying is that I see our United States that way right now. The ugliness was always there below the surface, but now it is in full awful view, and it seems to be getting deeper and uglier by the second.
Having said that, I am not sure that I, or anyone else, is doing enough to combat that ugliness with light and love. It is too easy to retreat to the “that group is doing this,” or “THEY are doing that.” In our anger about the reality, are we shutting out others? Are we marginalizing people?
So I ask myself, what have I done today to make someone’s life better today? What have I done to actively combat hate? What have I done to look at situations and see what is there that is beautiful and good? Have I reached out to someone who is marginalized? Have I treated others the way I would want my own children to be treated? Have I upheld Sam’s reality and practice of how to treat others?
I’ve quoted Twiddle a lot over the last years, but I will once more. Their song White Light calls on people to “love relentlessly.” I absolutely love (sorry to overuse the word) that phrase. “Love relentlessly,” not “love when it is convenient,” or “love people like you,” or “love those who are in power or have money,” it says to do it RELENTLESSLY. Not once in a while. Not when it is convenient. Not when it is easy to do. Relentlessly.
As this day comes to an end, I ask myself, have I loved relentlessly today? I can say I did my best, not perfectly, but I will continue to do so with every ounce of my being. In my mind, it’s the right thing to do.