love, an explanation

By Kathryn Baxter
Woman Newspapers

We are exhausted. It hurts to hear the daily news, such intense and tragic stories. Silver linings are so hard to come by when the headlines are about war, injustice, questionable government leaders, deceptive corporations, abducted children. Through it all, the news feels like a narrative of blame and we are being pitted against one another.

As I’m writing this, it’s been less than a day since the grand jury voted not to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. This column isn’t about Michael Brown or Darren Wilson. I want to talk about how easily – when we feel so hurt, so angry, so defensive and divided – we can forget that we are all in this together.

I posted an image from the violent events in Ferguson on Instagram. An old college friend responded,“How am I supposed to explain this insanity to my son?” Her son is 5 years old. She’s asking how do we, as adults, make sense of the violence, divisiveness and desperation, let alone gain enough clarity to prepare our children? How do we keep their bodies, their minds and their hearts safe?

I realized her son needed exactly what we all need. I responded,“I guess we start by explaining why love is so important.”

Does that sound corny to you? Let me tell you what I mean.

As a child, if you’re lucky, you’ve experienced how your family and your community shows love. Maybe it’s the way Mom kissed your scraped elbow or the way Dad tucked you in at night. Maybe it’s the way your grandparents cared for each other. Maybe it’s the way your neighbors checked in on each other.

Love can present itself in a lot of ways, and if we’re lucky, our family shows us that we are loved. If we’re very lucky, our community does the same. But why, exactly, is that love so important?

Receiving love opens the door to something wonderful: loving others. (Please understand I’m not talking about hugging and kissing people you don’t know.) Giving your love to others is the key to joy and peace in your life, leaving you open to compromise and kindness and understanding.

Approaching others with love instead of judgment, assumptions, or the desire to control
can be difficult. Though I am not a master of this practice, I am a student of it. I’ve learned that the vulnerability of fully loving a partner, a child, a family – that vulnerability is the thing we resist with strangers. It’s natural to resist it. We want control. We want to demand and insist that we’re right and someone else is wrong.

We fight for control when we feel some sense of ourselves, our safety, our world view is put in jeopardy. Those are the moments when acknowledging we feel vulnerable can help us lower our defenses and enable a little more self-awareness. I struggle with being self-aware in all those little and big moments. I often fight to be right and have a tendency toward wanting to control my little world.

I have a lot to learn and to share about the importance of love, but I know I’m on the right track. When I am pained by news stories from my community and around the world, if I think about the individuals with love in my heart instead of a fire to conquer the wrong, a space opens up for me to see their true being and not as polarized others. I hope to become a better listener and in turn be more clearly heard.

I also know I’m on the right track, because I have this opportunity to talk to you and I want to use this chance to offer my love. Together, we have an obligation not only to help create a better world, but an opportunity to live a better life in the process.