How Do You Feel About Love These Days?

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How you feel about love these days? That’s my writing prompt for today, and it’s just what I needed to get my muse mojo going. After the sights and sounds of love that I experienced this week, the prompt is perfect. Every day for the past several days, I’ve been privileged to look into the faces of people dear to me and to hold my grandchildren close to my heart. I’m fascinated with Ethan’s blond hair and Olivia’s steadily increasing vocabulary. And the Maseda grands who live near Savannah? Each one is remarkable and well-loved.

It’s easy to love my grandchildren and their parents. In fact, I love all of my family, including the extended ones and the ones I don’t get to see often. My friends are dear to my heart too. I’ve studied several theories of friendship over the years, and I must admit that they all apply to my friendly relations. Some of us have been friends since we were preschoolers while others arrived more recently on the scene. Still, I love them all.

But what about those “other people,” the ones who are “different” from you and me? Aren’t we supposed to love them too? I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit lately too, largely because of Independence Day and the huge variety of people I’ve seen. Honestly, at the Myrtle Beach State Park this week, I’ve seen just about every shape, size, race, ethnicity, and race that there is. I’ve heard several different languages and sniffed numerous aromas emanating from the picnic tables and grills at the state park.

And how do I feel about it? I LOVE it! I love the diversity of people, customs, language, and traditions, and I love the USA. It’s a land choice above all other lands, and thankfully at some time in the past some of my ancestors made the decision to immigrate here. So did yours, unless you’re a Native American.

Back to love. Love is the most important emotion and force in the universe. It motivates us to action, soothes our wounds, binds us together, helps us grow, and sometimes breaks our hearts. Love is much more important than all the silver and gold in the world although everything, including love, goes a little more smoothly with money. I’d like a little silver and gold too. It’s just that for the essence of life, nothing can beat love.

There are several definitions of love, but the one I’m thinking of this morning has to do with what Christ said when delivering the second greatest commandment. In case you’re like me and need a little reminder of what that is and where to find it, look in Matthew 22:39: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” He didn’t say, “Try to love this person if you can.” He essentially commanded us to do it.

He didn’t say love the people of your tribe, family, race, social class, or political party ONLY.  It’s funny how things you learn as a child stick with you, and yesterday as I walked along the beach, I saw such a diversity of people that I kept hearing the refrain of “Red and yellow black and white, all are precious in His sight.” It’s hard to do sometimes. Those people talking with the funny accents as I waited for them to finish rinsing their feet and chairs and buckets weren’t feeling too much love from a sandy-coated, hot me.

What I’m getting at is that it’s easier to love people that you’re related or who are in your friendship circle. It’s harder to love those who speak a different language, worship a different god, or have a different complexion. At the same time, is it okay to pick and choose the commandments we follow?

Tell me what you think, my fellow Americans. I keep thinking of examples of love I’ve seen this week, enough for another blog post. Stay tuned. I’ll write that one tomorrow.

“Do You Ladies Need Some Help?”

Here’s what I’m saying: We all need friends, every single one of us. Somewhere, possibly right next door or in that book club you’re thinking of joining, there’s a new friend waiting for someone like you. What are you waiting for?

On Friday, my sister and I spent an entire day together sans cares and responsibilities. Whenever I’m with her, we talk about so many topics that it’s just about dizzying. From husbands and children to money and God and wrinkles, we covered a lot of ground on Friday. She’s a great sister AND a great friend, and I mention that because she wasn’t included in the my recent blog about friends. Neither were a few other people, not because they aren’t important but because, well, read on.

Ann belongs to a separate and unique category; one entitled “Family Friends.” Sometimes family folks who are not  friends, but in my case, I’m fortunate to have several family members who are, and Ann heads the list. My five sisters-in-law are on that list too. And although I don’t really want to include men in my friend countdown, I’m make an exception. My husband is truly a grand friend.

He’s supportive, nonjudgmental, encouraging, and patient. Patient to a point, that is. Last week as he halfway listened (kept reading his Kindle) to me prattle on and on and on about a situation that’s been breaking my heart, he put the Kindle aside for a moment and asked, “Don’t you think it’s about time for you to leave that horse alone?”

“What? Huh? What are you talking about?” I asked.

“That dead horse,” he said. “Why do you keep on beating it?”

And he was right, of course. It’s time for me to move beyond this particular heartache/issue, and he’s the only with the guts to tell me that.

Another group of old friends who continue to impact my life today are some church friends from Myrtle Beach. As soon as I got on facebook after posting Thursday’s “piece,” I saw posts from a few of them. Rather than chance leaving anyone from that era of my life out, I’ll just mention the ones I saw the other evening: Dorothea, Beth, Gail, and Mary. There are at least a dozen more, and all aided in my personal and spiritual development. In fact, it’s scary to imagine my life at the coast without them.

Are you wondering about the photo accompanying this blog? It’s one of some of my friends and me in the bell tower of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington this past January. Four of us made the road trip to and from South Carolina. The fifth person in the photograph, the young pretty one, is someone we met earlier that day. As we stood poring over our maps and city guides, Alyssa turned to us with a beautiful smile and asked if we needed some help.  We adopted her as daughter, guide, and friend, and all it took was her charm and a simple question.

I don’t want any readers out there to think this is all about me or that I’m boasting about my friends. Here’s what I’m saying:  We all need friends, every single one of us. Somewhere, possibly right next door or in that book club you’re thinking of joining, there’s a new friend waiting for someone like you. What are you waiting for?

One is Silver, The Other Gold

Events of the past couple of weeks have reinforced my belief that people who have friends are the most fortunate folks who walk the earth. As I posted on facebook last night, “I’m wondering how people make it through life without friends. Seriously, in the last few days, they have listened, advised, entertained, shared, inspired, encouraged, and helped me in ways too many to mention.”

Events of the past couple of weeks have reinforced my belief that people who have friends are the most fortunate folks who walk the earth. As I posted on facebook last night, “I’m wondering how people make it through life without friends. Seriously, in the last few days, they have listened, advised, entertained, shared, inspired, encouraged, and helped me in ways too many to mention.”

Before moving back to Camden a little over ten years ago, I felt edgy, uneasy, and well, downright reluctant to leave the coastal area. I had raised my children there, established a career, and made some great friends. Generally speaking, I had done all of the things most young people do when they leave the nest. How could I go back “home” and leave June, Millie, Murph, Marsha, Judy, Ella, and Elaine?

As it turns out, I didn’t have to leave anyone because they all still live in my memory. On occasion, I actually get to see some of them. This past week, I met with June for a few hours as we went over a manuscript that she had volunteered to proofread for me (yes, she volunteered). We also dined on a healthy lunch before sauntering over to check out the renovations to her daughter’s house. A true friend, June has always been forthright and honest with me, even at times when I didn’t want to hear it (the unvarnished truth).

Thinking my husband would allay my anxiety about moving to Camden, I asked, “Who will I hang out with? Are there people there like me, people with my interests? Do you think there’s a book club I could join??”

“There’s no one like you,” he replied, and if it hadn’t been for the snickering, I would have taken it as a compliment. Nevertheless, I took a leap of faith and left the coast. Within a short period of time, I had met dozens of people, many of whom would become close friends over the next several years. There’s Carol, my department chair, who taught me a lesson right away. I was at Central Carolina, not Horry Georgetown, and my parking ticket wasn’t going to go away by itself. Ouch. Talented and creative, Carol hosted the best Christmas parties I’ve ever attended.

Martha, Lisa, Melissa, and Nancy soon became great friends. So did Jim and Mark and Myles, but this post is about gal pals. I’ve gone on trips with the aforementioned ladies, and one of them is responsible for my foray into facebook. After a New York trip, Lisa kept telling me about a picture of me that she had snapped after she and Linda “dropped me off” of the tour bus at the southern tip of Manhattan. “Email it to me,” I asked several times, and each time her reply was, “No. It’s on facebook, and you need to join.”

Martha and Lisa and I like going to movies and dissecting them later. The two of them are movie aficionados and know far more than I about casting, nuances, actors, hidden meanings, and cinematography than I ever will. So does Melissa. We just don’t get to see her too much because she’s busy busy busy working on her dissertation. And did I mention that we share a love of books? We do. In fact, Martha and Melissa coaxed me to join Goodreads. And Martha, like me, is into all things celestial.

If I continue on with work friends, I’ll never get to my church friends, all of whom I love. Really, I do. One afternoon after working in Sumter all day, I walked into the downtown campus of CCTC (Camden), and there was someone I knew I’d seen but couldn’t place right away. “Do I know you? You look so familiar.” I said to the pretty blond woman waiting to see a counselor about her daughter.

“From church,” she said. “You know me from church. I’m Connie Fogle.” Connie was the first of many “sisters” that I met. I hesitate to list them because I know I’ll forget someone so I’ll just say that just since Sunday, Connie, Tilara, Lisa, Cyndy, Valerie, Sue, Carol, and Donna have influenced me in a positive way.

While I love my new friends, the “old” ones have a special place in my heart. Jeanita lives in Pawleys Island now, and when I’m in Myrtle Beach, I often call or text to ask, “Want to meet at Salt Water Creek for lunch?”  Something especially nice about getting together with her is that we have a history that began when we were youngsters, and there’s something comforting about knowing each other’s parents and “beginnings.” I used to think she looked more like Jimmy than Betty, but now I’m not so sure.

Moving on, there are Linda and Shirley, college friends. Linda stopped by to see me on her way home from a conference the other day, and she truly put some things into perspective for me. Since our marriages, children’s births, divorces, and careers followed parallel paths, we’ve bolstered each other up on many an occasion. Shirley lives in Montana so we don’t see her too often. Just gotta say, though, that she was always the brains of the operation, and her oldest child is literally a rocket scientist who helped put Curiosity on Mars this summer.

And that brings me to today…or yesterday actually. I had lunch with Nancy, someone who attended school with me for 12 years. Having different interests and friends during those years, we didn’t see each other too often. It wasn’t until I moved back to Camden that we became reacquainted. Now we have lunch together at least once a month, and it’s been a great experience for both of us. Because of our conversation yesterday, I’m committed to becoming involved in volunteer work.

One of the things Nancy and I discussed yesterday at the Carolina Café is the power of the internet in bringing people together. While there are pros and cons of facebook, we both agreed that because of it, we’re able to reconnect with long lost friends and acquaintances from our youth. Polly, Vicki, Debbie, Harriet, Joan Ella, Cheryl, and dozens more are more “real” to us now, and we often find ourselves thinking of these friends and their lives.

For those of you who managed to read to the end of this, congratulations! Although it was a long post, writing it put things into perspective for me and increased my gratitude for my friends, old and new. And just think, I haven’t even gotten to my book club and writing group chums yet.