By Kristine Schroeder
When we were kids, our parents taught us to share whatever we had. If we were eating a snack in the presence of our siblings, we were expected to divide it equally among those present. Given the fact that there was a possibility of a seven-way split, I am sure at times we chose to duck into a secluded space or gobble the goodie down before entering a crowded room. One-seventh of a Snickers is a tiny morsel. There was also rarely a time any of us drank an entire beverage without someone asking for a sip. While it was annoying at times, that share with your brother and sister upbringing has happily carried over into adulthood.
I am reminded of this while gazing over palm trees to the Gulf of Mexico as I write this column. Our brother Todd had an extra week in his condo before he closed the sale and offered it to any of us who wished to enjoy it. Being diplomatic, he polled his list of siblings, and Jim and I happily accepted his kind offer. His generosity is one of a myriad of examples that has continued throughout our adult lives thanks to the expectations our parents set for us as children.
Love is an action. People often believe it is a word, a gift or even a promise; but those things are only the beginnings. While attending a plethora of weddings, I have heard many young couples pledge to “love you through good times and bad, through sickness and health, til death do us part,” only to later discover that they are separated or divorced before even a decade of the vows have been fulfilled.
Love is the everyday deeds that often go unnoticed. It is cleaning up our messes without being asked; recognizing others’ needs and then aiding them with compassion and care. Love is relinquishing our plans to aid someone in need. Love requires a willingness to adapt.
Love is forgiving someone for what they did or said, then letting the offense go. It is realizing that always being right or having our way is detrimental to relationships. Admitting we are wrong or apologizing when we are at fault strengthens our bonds and creates peace.
In first grade, we studied the Baltimore Catechism. One of the first questions and answers we memorized was “Who is God?” The answer, “God is love.” When the Holy Spirit, the third in the Trinity came to the apostles on Pentecost, he gave them the grace to spread Jesus’ message and His love to all people. We Christians today are expected to continue that mission.
Love takes time. I am always skeptical when people say, “It was love at first sight.” Yes, I believe it was a strong attraction or an undeniable connection; but love? A Providence sister I had in high school gave me a definition of love that I have never forgotten. She said that love for another person means that you want what is best for them.
When I taught religion and health to junior high students, I used that definition often. What does it mean to want what is best for someone? First, it indicates that you desire they lead a healthy lifestyle, do well in their studies, have friends and family who truly love them, and live comfortably. But, is that enough? What do we want if we truly wish the best for our loved ones?
I believe that we desire that they will live a life that leads them to heaven. Is there a better goal? Does making lots of money, driving expensive cars, having many degrees or being materially rich guarantee heaven? The Bible repeatedly answers that question in the negative.
If we love others, it is our duty to help them attain heaven. How do we do that? St. Francis said, “Preach the gospel and if necessary use words.” We must live the values we promote. St. Mother Theresa adds, “Love cannot remain by itself. It has no meaning. Love has to be put into action and that action is service.” True love is everyone’s ticket to heaven.