By Azher Quader
As Americans go about serenading their sweethearts on Valentines Day each year in the middle of February, love often arrives gift wrapped as a box of chocolates or shows up as a vase filled with roses. Sometimes for the more adventurous ones it may announce itself through pajama grams or for some imaginative ones through cuddly teddy bears. Clearly this money-making commerce of love is good for the industry. How much good it does to strengthen commitments, affirm affections or even heal some hurts is of little consequence to our society which thrives on the make believe, where the outer is more important than the inner, where the image is more compelling than the reality and where the transient is more attractive than the enduring.
Indeed the joy of true love is far more elusive than what the commercials tell us or what the romantic creations of Hollywood depict, where the plays of passion as shown on the silver screen dominate our imagination and describe the way to live and love.
For true love is not so common, is very special, a lot more demanding and indeed life changing. It empowers the week, enriches the poor and transforms the ordinary to become the extraordinary.
True love for a spouse is in the exercise of unconditional love that gives without asking, that seeks no strings, that provides much while receiving little.
It is sitting near a bed holding hands when speech is lost to the silence of stroke. It is a commitment to nursing when sickness overtakes, when Alzheimer devastates, when cancer strikes and yes to caring even when cure is said to be not possible.
It is to do the chores that come at the end of a tiring day, with a smile. To do the dishes, to make the meals, to change the diapers and so much more without raising a brow, without voicing a complaint. It is to make time when there is little time. To listen when arguing is easier, to practice patience when tempers are hot, to forgive when the moment has passed.
It is the love built on trust. It is the love that is not threatened by the embrace of other affections. It is the love that triumphs over the tragedies of life. It is the love that lingers through good times and bad times. It is the love that never dies.
True love for country is in the willingness to fight for its freedoms, to bear arms against its enemies, to make the ultimate sacrifice if need be, in the defense of its borders.
It is to speak truth to power, to abide by the law, to preserve the peace. It is to demand representation, to practice civic engagement, to look for the common good. It is in the willingness to dialogue and seek common ground. It is in the ability to see the big picture, let go of personal agendas and promote the national interest. It is to recognize that whether we live in the north or the south, in the east coast or in the west coast, whether we are black, white, brown or yellow, whether we are new immigrants from distant shores or old natives, inhabitants of the soil, whether we came here in chains or we came here by choice, our lives are now inseparable, we now share a common destiny.
True love for country is not the special claim of one ideological group or another, whether they be on the right or on the left or anywhere in between. True love for country is found in those patriot souls whose loyalty is not divided, who march to a single drummer and who carry a single flag.
True love for the Divine expresses itself through submission to His Will in all aspects of our living. It is a love that transcends our love for family and country. It frees us from our tribal allegiances, it liberates us from our national bondages. It makes us citizens of a global village. It is a love that connects man to fellow man, indeed to all creation. It is a love that unites mankind by reminding us of our essential humanity.
True love for the Divine is engaging not reclusive. It is best manifest in society amidst people and problems, not in the mountains amidst solitude and tranquility.
True love for the Divine is more than the pursuit of devotional practices that lead us into a life of self-absorption. It is to reach out and make a difference in the lives of others. It is to feed the hungry, care for the ailing, and speak for the silent. It is to spend for the welfare of the poor and needy, to teach and educate, to be good neighbors. It is to build trust among the distrusting, show compassion to the hateful.
True love for the Divine is a lot more than singing His praises or twirling in His remembrance. It is much more than memorizing His Words and reciting them every day. True love for the Divine is a state of being, a life of doing. True love for the Divine is tremendously empowering and life changing.
This Valentine Day let us find true love.
Azher Quader, Executive Director, Community Builders Chicago (CBC), www.mycommunitybuilders.com