A generation or two ago, kids played real games with real kids, unaided by electronic distractions. We loved playing an old German game called "The Farmer in the Dell," a musical chanting game played out in a circle of friends. One verse announces, "The cheese stands alone." The verses (some made up on the spot) that included two or more people in the center of the circle were the most fun. Love isn't like that children's verse with the cheese. It doesn't stand alone as joyfully as it stands with others. Love can be found surrounded by empathy, service, sacrifice, gratitude and other virtues as well as fellow beings.
A tiny granddaughter recently revealed, "I know that you're going to give me a really good birthday present because you love me a lot." That comment provided an opportunity to ponder how people perceive our love. We know that gifts of time and service can often be appreciated more than gifts purchased with money. However, the monetary sacrifices to purchase gifts also express love. Someone once bragged to one of my nephews during school lunch time, "My mom baked cookies for me. My nephew proudly replied, "Well my mom bought cookies for me!" One of my favorite Family Circus cartoons by gifted artist Bil Keane wisely admonished, "You can give them things or you can give them time." I loved his illustration of how to gift children. The young and old seem to especially appreciate the gifts of time and experiences. Many of the "inbetweeners" seem to enjoy "things."
It has been said that a little girl's first love is her daddy. David O. McKay admonished fathers that “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” According to the valentine from this little daughter, a father also shows love in more practical ways, like helping with homework.
Young people love to anticipate which heart cupid's arrows will pierce next and are often caught up in the practice of falling in and out of love. As we age and explore different avenues of love and affection, we realize which kinds have the greatest holding power. From my childhood, I perceived the pain that can come from lost love, betrayed love, sick love and denied love. I wondered how to trust love. Advice I often pondered revealed that its greater to trust than to love. What's up with that, I questioned. Thankfully, from my childhood, my life has been enriched by the love of some exemplary people that were both loving and trustworthy. My friend since Kindergarten, has shown love in a thousand different ways – from keeping secrets to showering us with needed gifts just when the need for them arose. She would say, "God put it in my heart to do this." Hmm. God must care about friendships and inspire acts of love. In fact, he often seems to recruit His children to help answer each other's prayers.
One way to show love is by giving people the benefit of the doubt and by not taking offense, especially when none was intended. I guess that's one of the forms of "tough love," at least it may seem tough to swallow when extending compassion and forgiveness for thoughtless words and actions. Anticipating needs is a sweet way to love. One thoughtful friend invited me to a baby shower and, knowing the financial crisis we were in at the time, provided a baby gift along with the invitation. Most acts of love require no gift. When my brother was headed toward his twilight time of mortality, he simply, patted my arm gently and looked into my eyes. I felt his love. Many memorable love moments have been expressed in the words, deeds and sacrifices of our children as they share the best of what they have with us – from a wilted flower in a grubby, tiny hand, to meticulous professional services from highly skilled hands. In my teen years I often felt deprived for not ever being able to buy fashionable clothing like my friends did. I always wore mother's home-sewn outfits. Looking back, I see the love in her creative handiwork and in her ability to give me what she painstakingly fashioned with her own busy hands when money for store-bought clothes was not an option.
No Valentine's Day would be complete without a story of romantic love. When my sweetheart was pursuing a marriage proposal to me, he tried many unique strategies and convincing sales pitches. I was like a fish thrashing about trying to escape from a hook. One day he simply said with serious tenderness in his voice, "If it ever gets to the point that we have only one bite of food left to eat, you will eat it and I will die." There was a long silence between us as I realized the impact of his words. John 15:13 says, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." He loved me more than his own life! What more could I look for? Cupid's arrow hit my heart and tears of joy could not be restrained. Early in our marriage, military service soon separated us and I stood alone like the cheese in my childhood game. During a final embrace and tearful goodbye, my sweetheart plucked a velvet, red rose from a treasured garden spot in our front yard and gave it to me. He said, "Whenever you feel lonely, just come out and pick a rose and remember this moment and think that I am picking it for you." Then he was gone. Not many days later, the loneliness of the "cheese standing alone" became unbearable. My heart melted when I thought of my husband's tender words. I rushed out the front door to capture a rose and hold it close to my heart. There, in the very spot where the rose bush had been, was a gaping hole outlined with shovel marks. Someone had stolen my cherished rose bush! Tears formed like the morning dew on a rose pedal. Fortunately, the love was not stolen, merely a symbol of it.
We are never alone in the circles of life that surround us. A loving Heavenly Father gave His only begotten son to be our loving friend and Savior. Jesus loved us enough to suffer through agonizing sorrows, bleed at every pore, atone for our sins, and allow himself to be crucified and end the restrictions of death by being resurrected. In return for those amazing gifts, He asks us to love one another.
What's up? In the children's singing game, the "cheese" doesn't stand alone for long. On the next round, the game starts over and the one who was the cheese can become the "farmer" who takes a "wife" who takes a "child." The circle of love continues and is the glue that can help keep families and friends together forever. Happy Valentine's Day! Tell someone you love them today and every chance you get. We may not pass this way again. – Nani's Notes