Part five of my five part series entitled “Who Do You Love?”
Is this possible? Are we able to love those that are against us? This is where the challenge comes in. Agape isn’t easy. It isn’t fair weather love. It doesn’t come and go as your feelings change. Agape is unconditional. It doesn’t judge. It doesn’t categorize people into lists of cool, smart, popular or funny. Agape is consistent with all people. It provides dignity, respect and compassion to everyone. This is what God asks of us.
I’ll wrap up with a personal story of dignity and respect. When I was living and working in Toronto, I became friends with a guy named Larry. Larry panhandled a block from my workplace, just outside of the subway that I rode to work every day. For months, I would walk by Larry every day, not really acknowledging him. Larry became a familiar sight in the morning and at night when I would come and go from work. One day, I decided to stop and talk to him for a minute. I was curious to see what his story was. If nothing else, he was dedicated to what he was doing. I think he showed up for his work of panhandling on a more regular basis than some of my co-workers.
I was curious to know who Larry was, what made him tick. Over the course of six months or so, we slowly got to know one another. We’d say hi and bye each day, we’d occasionally stand and chat for a few minutes while I was on my way to work or on my way home to my family. Through conversation, he shared some of his life story with me and I shared some with him. I learned that he was making ends meet through panhandling and by working part time as a youth street counselor. He felt the need to dedicate some of his time to preventing kids from making some of the same mistakes that he had made.
I asked him what I could do to make a difference with some of the social problems that he was experiencing himself, or that he was witnessing in those kids that he visited on a regular basis. His answer summed up agape so well for me. He told me that just saying hi to people and making them feel like people was a good start. He said that just recognizing someone as a person and providing them with that level of respect made such a difference. It didn’t cure their problems. But it gave them a sense of dignity and worth.
To me, that’s an example of agape in action. Just recognizing someone and acknowledging them is important. Ensuring that everyone can contribute and that nobody is marginalized is part of God’s plan. It’s about encouraging dignity and respect in the lives of others.
It’s ultimately about community. Loving your neighbour, regardless of who they are, what they do or why they do it.
I’m going to leave you with a question. Write it down and put it on your fridge or your bathroom mirror or somewhere that you’ll see it on a regular basis:
What can you do this week to express God’s divine love?
Thank you and God bless each and every one of you.