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He found me on the playground just after I brought my daughter to school, a respectable looking man, tall, well dressed, wearing glasses and a nicely pressed shirt. And as he pushed his baby in a stroller with another toddler in his arms, I saw his mind begin to reel behind his eyes.
“Hello! I just wanted to let you know that we are working on a few things with our son and one of those things is trying to help him to not say he loves people so easily. I told him that love is a powerful word and that we don’t say it to people we don’t know very well. I mean, even though we really like your daughter and are happy he is friends with her, we don’t think it is appropriate that he tells her he loves her. He can say he likes her, even that he likes her a lot, but we don’t want him saying he loves her anymore.”
At this point I think I mumbled a few filler words like ‘ok’ or ‘wow’, which only led him to think he needed to further explain himself.
“For example, just the other day we were at a park and our son had a connection with a little girl there so he invited her to come to his house, telling her his address so she could find him easier. And then, when we were leaving, he told her he loved her and wanted to give her a hug but her father said no, maybe next time. You see, they just met. The father was uncomfortable with my son saying he loved her and wanting to hug her, because well, it was rushing things. It wasn’t appropriate.”
I could hold my tongue no longer.
“You know, I used to think it wasn’t ok for my daughter to tell strangers that she loved them. But then I realized, who was I to tell her what she was feeling? Maybe she was teaching me. Maybe we adults have it all wrong. Maybe we do need to love right away. Maybe we do need to hug more. Maybe we, as parents, need to learn from our children.”
He started to share something else, to defend his decision when the bell rang. I started for the gate.
“Not to worry,” I sang over my shoulder. “I hear you. And I will tell my daughter what you are teaching your son.”
But inside, I was trembling, my heart a jumbled mess, my mind using every bit of its strength to hold it together.
* * *
Why don’t we love more? Why don’t we hug more? Why do we give rules to not only our own hearts but to the hearts of those around us, too? Are we too steeped in fear, afraid that loving will someday end up being the root of our undoing? Does the vulnerability of our children, their open hearts and rawness of being, conflict with everything we thought we knew to be true?
What if we have it all wrong? What if the lack of love is the root of all that is wrong with this world? And what if more love, love immediately and for all, is the only thing that will ever save us?
The way I see it, we have two choices. To be a part of the solution. Or to be a part of the problem. If you’re around me, either way, you’re getting hugged. And you know something else? I love you. So there.