In my time serving alongside people with disabilities at L’Arche, I’ve been the glad recipient of a lot of love. Here are a few specific ways of sharing love that stayed with me. May they bring a spark to your day!
These are set in the style of ‘The 5 love languages’:
Words of affirmation
1. Tell someone the truth of what they mean to you, or how they inspire you. A well-spoken, heartfelt compliment can feed the soul for weeks.
Case in point: once, when Leo* told me, “Your temperament is all smiles,” I was blown away. Leo is a fairly taciturn man, and he doesn’t give compliments often. True to the person that he is, he affirmed me in a highly-specific, creative way.
2. Spend time planning for the future. Get started on a specific future-related task you’ve been avoiding. For example, If you’re a sibling of a person with disabilities, sit down with your parents and talk about how your sibling will receive care in the future. If you’re a parent, make sure you’ve updated your will and your insurance policy to protect your children.
Do what needs to be done, and you’ll have planted a seed of peace.
Acts of service
3. Go above and beyond for someone you love without being asked. Be their knight in shining armor. (Let’s bend history and use ‘knight’ in a gender-neutral way here.)
What do I mean by this? My then-housemate, now-husband Jonathan once got up at 6am and did a L’Arche morning routine for me. He knew I was exhausted, so he slipped a note under my door that read, “Go back to bed!” We weren’t dating yet, but I fell back asleep holding that paper. I thought, “Dang. Even if he doesn’t like me, that’s the best love letter I’ve ever received.”
For you, this may mean taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom, or doing that one thing that no one in your family likes to do. Anne Lamott says it well: “This—a man scrubbing a new mother’s bathtub—is what Jesus means to me.”
4. Give yourself the gift of small things, of “the pure genius hiding behind [his] smile.”
I highly recommend the story in the link above, but if you don’t read it, the equation works like this: tenacity + humility = you moving forward.
Or, to put it another way, do as my friend Theresa* does and pick up every penny you see on the sidewalk. Why? Because one penny at a time makes a full jar of pennies eventually (and this makes Theresa very happy.)
For you, this may mean that you start giving a tenth of your income to charity, or that you set up a Roth IRA. Take one small step in the direction of your dreams. Don’t believe that it’s insignificant. As long as it’s a step in the right direction, it counts.
5. Sit quietly with someone, and hold their hand. This may help to shape a major life decision for them, as it did for me when Cassandra* held my hand on my first visit to L’Arche…or it may simply help them feel that they aren’t alone.
Which is pretty major in this world.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Spread the love by emailing/liking/retweeting this post.
*Names have been changed.