January 16, 2012

Three Kinds of Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.

LoveThat’s what’s on my mind these days. There’s a lot of schools of thought on it… but I think that LOVE is answer to almost any question you ask. Martin Luther King, Jr’s teaching on love:

Eros..a romantic love for your mate. It’s inevitably a little selfish. You love your lover because there is something about your lover that moves you. It may be the way he talks or the way he walks or the personality or the physical beauty or the intellectual power– but it’s always based on that there’s something that attracts you.”

One year prior to “the 9/11” that transformed all of our lives, is the wedding anniversary of my mother and her husband. Mom classified him as a silver-haired fox (translation: a good-looking catch), a dating requirement. She was absolutely stunning with nary a wrinkle on her ivory skin which enhanced her deep blue eyes, chin-length bobbed red hair, and trim figure that turned many heads.

For 30 years, Mom was a perpetually single, conservative Southern Baptist, who never opened a newspaper unless it was to cut a coupon, and who read her Bible and Norman Vincent Peal quotes daily. He was a newly single left-winged liberal who enjoyed daily New York Times crosswords, literature my mother has never heard of, travel to countries she’s has never been to nor cared to go, wine she’s always refused to drink and was debt free.

He had a sparkle in his eyes that spoke of infatuated honeymoon-ish love whenever he would look at her. He adored her. Ignoring all their differences, they married anyway. The 12 year marriage evolved into something unconventional, proving he’s a man of sticking power. His secret? It began with Eros and grew into something more.

“Philia…intimate affection between personal friends. These are people you like. It’s reciprocal love. You love because you are loved. You love the people that you like. People that you like to sit down at the table and eat dinner with. People you dial the phone and talk to. People you go out with. This is friendship.”

My father and his wife, married over 25 years ago. He was intensely career driven man for all my growing up years who relied on her for everything from bill paying, cooking, decorating to organizing cross country or international moves.

She had a flare for interior decorating, retired after 20 years as a flight attendant and became a devoted full time personal assistant to Dad. Their marriage has endured the typical family squabbles and strangeness that comes with an array of colorful relatives and a spoiled daughter (me), family losses (after both of her parents passed, there are now no other living relatives since she was an only child), more moves and houses than I can possible recount, and now, her disease: Alzheimer’s.

My father said to me when he learned I was contemplating my own marriage few years ago that, “at some point, love evolves. It’s no longer a romantic love or even close to that. It becomes a completely different kind of love and simply endures.” As her full time care-giver, his dedication to her well-being is beyond admirable, it’s saintly. She can no longer carry on a 2 way conversation, remember how to wash her hands or hair, let alone prepare her own meals or even order at a restaurant. His secret?  Simply talk to her to engage her mind and be with her constantly…Love evolved.

“Agape…is more than romantic love… more than friendship…it’s understanding. It is creative and redeeming good will toward all men. It is the love of God operating in the human heart. It is the overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. And when you rise to love on this level, you love people who don’t move you. You love those that you don’t like. You love those whose ways are distasteful to you. You love every man because God loves him.”

All of them either approaching or into their 70’s, for better or for worse, are still married. Each transformed through enduring hardships and sharing in some kind of happiness, even if that happiness is just a memory. It is a strange, unspoken, yet profoundly demonstrated kind of love. Love is always the giver, never the taker. Real love doesn’t ask for anything in return. Where there is love, there is no fear. Love is the answer.

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”–Mother Teresa


Related articles by Melissa Smith: Waking up a different person.Love Letter to the Vulnerable Warrior of the Heart.

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