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 dictionary.com: “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.

Take time to let those closest know how you feel…and do it daily!

Both of my maternal grandparents would have turned 100 in April.

That fact, along with the recent death of a beloved fraternity brother – and the reality that my parents are both well into their 70s – has had me thinking a lot lately about love and loss.

But what it really got me to thinking about is how we might express that love to those we care about while they’re still with us.

I’m an interesting case study.

In my 18 years as a high school teacher and coach, I often wrote short notes of congratulations to students and student-athletes after strong semesters in the classroom.

I also made no secret to many of my athletes that I loved them as I would members of my own family.

But it’s that very family that all too often took a backseat to my job, and to those who weren’t “blood.”

Over the nearly five years since I left teaching, I’ve become much better at telling those closest to me how I feel about them. My parents, my siblings, my nieces and nephew, and my aunts, uncle and cousins have a much better feel for the way I feel about them. And it was long overdue.

So, folks, it is possible to teach an old (51) dog new tricks.

My recent return to writing – in notes, blogs, etc. – has been spurred in part because of the desire I have to make sure that the young people I’m in contact with can learn from my mistakes. And because I hope they’ll follow my lead and let those closest to them know about it.

I had a great phone conversation recently with a young fraternity brother. This 20-something young man is typical of the fantastic men who inhabit the K-State chapter of Delta Sigma Phi. He’s bright, caring and has his priorities in the right place.

And yet, like all of us from time to time, he needed to be reminded to take a moment to let those closest to him know just how he feels about them.

As college students – heck, as human beings in general – we’re sometimes overwhelmed with things… many that had to be done yesterday.

Tests. Dances. Meetings. Parties. Projects. Games. Graduations. Celebrations. Funerals.

Whoever it was that said life comes at you in a hurry wasn’t kidding.

But it’s time for everyone reading this to hit the brakes.

I’d like to challenge everyone reading this to take five minutes each day to reach out to those you’ve chosen to have as part of your lives.

We have so many “friends” these days due to social media, organizations we’re a part of, teams we join, etc. Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and texting, I’m seemingly spending more time than ever before reaching out to those I care about.

And that’s the point.

It’s easier than ever before to let those around us know how much we care. And it takes virtually no time at all.

Don’t just hit “like” on a Facebook post. Write a comment instead.

Don’t just hit the heart on an Instagram photo. Take the time to personalize a reply.

Don’t just text someone with something that needs to be said, but might get lost in translation. Use the same number that you’re texting to and call that person.

Again, though I’m getting better at this myself, I often fall short. But now, I’m doing a much better job at overcoming my shortcomings and addressing them.

For example, many of you may have read my recent blog regarding the K-State spring football game, and the wonderful experiences I had surrounding it.

But many of those who I spoke of in the blog had no way of knowing what I said about them. I let others know how much I cared about a group of people, but I failed to let those folks know it themselves.

One of those people is Pat Bosco, who is known to K-Staters for a myriad of reasons. He’s known to me as a dear friend, and the one who opened the door to Delta Sigma Phi for me 33 years ago this summer.

After I posted the blog, I realized that what I said about Pat in those paragraphs needed to be seen by Pat himself. Thus, I sent him an email with a pair of blog posts, including the one about the spring game.

His email reply made my decision worthwhile. It’s private, but rest assured it cemented my decision to make sure I continued to do the kind of things I’m urging each of you to do through this post.

None of us is perfect. Heck, I’ve lost more jobs in the last six years than I had in the entirety of my life to this point.

But each of us has the chance to take five minutes out of his/her day to show love and caring to others. And our words are an extremely strong – yet extremely easy – way of doing just that.

At the end of that telephone conversation with that young fraternity brother – the one where I shared my advice about reaching out to those closest to him, and about taking time to do so each day – I stopped just short of fully practicing what I preached.

But five minutes later, I picked up the phone and texted him this simple message: “Love ya, bud.” Well, my iPhone’s spell check corrected it to “Love ha, bud,” but the message was received.

If only we took the time on a daily basis to reach out.

Those maternal grandparents I spoke of to start this piece died within seven months of each other at the end of 2001 and the start of 2002.

One of the things I’ll always remember about each was the distinctive handwriting they both had. It’s one of the things I miss most.

And though I’d love to see those young people I’m blessed to know today take the time to write notes, cards, etc., I’ll settle for an electronic “signature” from time to time.

I think Charles, Virginia, Jack, Gregg and Suzy would approve.

And if you’re reading this, please know that although I may not say it enough, I love each of you.

That’s what this is really all about, after all.