LOVE: That scary, four-letter word that we need a lot more of right now

In 2002, I attended my 20th high school class reunion in Salina.
At a mini “awards presentation” that was part of the accompanying social function at the Salina Country Club, I was voted “most changed” by my classmates.
Seems as if my fellow Mustangs weren’t quite ready to see the formerly 160-pound David checking in at over 250 pounds. Or the David that never consumed a beer before college drinking like he’d been doing it forever.
Six years out from my 40th reunion, I really want to shock them in 2022.
My closest high school friends likely remember me as “emotionally distant” at best. I didn’t date in high school (heck, I really didn’t date in college), and I rarely — if ever — got excited about anything.
Over the past six years, however, I’ve begun a careful process of “re-creating” myself.
Oh, the heck with that notion. Let’s just say that I’ve continued to grow and evolve — as we all should.
Part of my evolution has involved my more-frequent use of a four-letter word that I’ve never really dealt all that well with.
No, I’m not using damn, f*ck, Hell or shit any more (or any less) frequently than I have been.
But I am using the word LOVE with a lot greater regularity recently. And I think it may have more than a few people amazed…and confused.
There probably isn’t a singular reason for this change in my approach to “the L word.”
Death has robbed me of grandparents, young men I’ve coached, former students, teaching colleagues and other close friends.
I’m not alone in having to deal with loss.
But I’ve found myself spending more time after each loss pondering if I did enough while each of these people were alive to let them know how much I LOVED each one of them.
And with this world growing seemingly crazier by the day, I’ve made a promise to myself to ponder NO MORE.
I’ve spent the past 20 years watching the two most significant male figures in my life — my dad, Gregg, and my maternal grandfather, Charlie — become more emotionally, physically and spiritually loving. And it’s been an awesome transformation to view from a front row seat.
That growth on the part of each of my dads — my dad and my granddad — really pushed me toward making a pact with myself that I was going to change, too.
And when I reconnected with my fraternity at K-State 16 months ago — and this time for good — I instantly had a group of over 100 brothers who were about the age my own kids would be…had I ever gotten around to getting married and having any.
So I’ve had the chance to be more loving and say the word LOVE around my family a lot more lately, and to show love to a group of young men who at times have had a hard time understanding where that love comes from.
My definition of love is probably closest to that found at “a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.”
In other words, I’m not just going to tell every Tom, Dick, Harry, Sally, Judy or Beth that I love them.
For me, there has to be a period of shared experience(s) that goes beyond the norm. The word LOVE does, after all, have to really mean something.
I also think that the love defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is just about what I’ve been searching for — and hope to provide in abundance for my family and friends in the days to come:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Recently, a close friend — yes, someone who I love — suggested that I read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. I jumped right in, and ended up subsequently also reading The Five Love Languages for Singles.
Both of these books have convinced me more than ever that my determination to love — and to use the word LOVE — more frequently is a good thing.
But to really love someone, and for both sides to benefit from that love, you have to be able to communicate that love in someone else’s “language.”
So I probably freaked out more than a few close friends by recently sending them a little synopsis of The Five Love Languages and asking them to take an assessment of their own “love languages” so that I could communicate with them better.
I wasn’t asking any of them to spend the rest of their lives with me. I was just making an admittedly awkward attempt to a.) tell them that I thought they were worth loving; and b.) find out how to best show them the love I thought they were worthy of receiving.
It probably all comes right back to “comfort level,” and to personal definition of that word that sends spirits soaring like none other — and yet can lead to awkward silence and confusion, all at the same time.
Awkward silence is something those high school classmates were — and are — probably used to when it came to knowing the “old David.”
And yet this “most changed” David isn’t going to spend a lot of time worrying about making someone a bit uncomfortable by telling that someone that “I love you.”
Because we can all use a whole lot more LOVE in our lives.
And if you’ve made it this far in this blog, I’m guessing you might LOVE me, too. It’s OK. I might have “changed” a bit through the years, but I’d like to believe I’m more worth loving than ever before.



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