Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Eyes of Love

"There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved.  It is God's finger on man's shoulder."  ~Charles Morgan

So last night I was folding laundry...a job I usually save for late Sunday nights when the whole house is quiet and it's just me.  But this week, miraculously, I was ahead of my chore and was folding on a Thursday night with John next to me.  I was trying to choose a TV show to watch.  He was on his laptop.  It was the epitome of mundane. 

I walked by his chair and he reached his hand out, not looking at me.  I looked down.  He looked up. And there they were...the eyes of love.  It wasn't romantic or sexy or anything other than supreme comfort.  "I love you," he said with his gaze.  I felt it and leaned down for a quick kiss.  And just like that, I continued forward and he went back to his computer.

An hour before that we were saying good-bye to our family friends who had come over to dinner with their 13 month old cherub.  Kalev was opening and closing his hands in that adorable good-bye that young toddlers do and I couldn't take it.  Mary Kate, Caroline and I were fussing all over him and his mom squeezed him tight and giggled with joy.  Her eyes were leaking love for her son and it was tangible and felt by all of the admirers around this sweet little guy.

Later that night, I took a walk with Buddy.  His look up at me was full of love and contentment as he waited for his leash to get attached. Just before I left, I walked down the hall to check on Mary Kate, making sure she was in bed.  With the lights off, all I could do was walk up to her bed, stoop down for a quick kiss and notice the highlights in her hair. Afterwards, I walked beside Jack, talked in the cold night time air about an amazing invention and the fun waiting for him back at college.  When we got home, Jack went upstairs and I made my way to check on Caroline and Patrick in the dark.  I could hear Caroline's slow breathing of deep sleep.  She was snuggled in covers on a cold night.  She received her goodnight kiss unaware.  Patrick, too, was cozy and lost in sleep.  His kiss was sprinkled on the top of his head and he took no notice.  I walked up to say goodnight to Jack.  This is our last night before he heads back to school.  I looked around his comfortably messy room and felt a pang.  I'm going to miss that guy...again.

And so, I started thinking about looking at those we love.  Getting to see them each day and having the chance to say with only our eyes how lovely they are.  How inspiring.  How brave.  How magnificent.  

I remember reading  a quote from Maya Angelou.  She was talking about her son and the intense love she felt for him. And she mentioned that she wanted him (and all children) to be greeted with the radiant smile and effusive love of a mother whenever they come home.  She wanted all children to feel the thrill of love's gaze.  The joy of being cherished.  The transformation of being wholly, indefatigably loved with abandon.  I try to remember that whenever I see my kids after I've been away from them for awhile and it's not hard.  They are adored and hopefully they feel it.

But there are others who rarely, if ever, feel the sweet contentment of love's gaze.  Of course, we can guess who they are.  They are the "marginalized"...those on the outskirts of society so I guess that makes them on the outskirts of love.  Which is pretty crappy.  We have the homeless, the addicted, the abused, the defeated, the discouraged, the bullied, the taunted, the disabled, the neglected, the orphaned.  Whatever the situation, the least we can do is offer acceptance, encouragement and yes, even love in the simplest way...through our eyes.  People feel judged.  They feel ridiculed. They feel dismissed or misunderstood simply by the way we look at them.  How often do we look past these people? For me, I'm ashamed to say...way too often.

About a year ago, I was standing in church listening to the priest and I could barely hear him.  I was distracted by a father just loving his daughter.  She was in a wheelchair, drooling with fists clenched in that twisted, painful, tell-tale sign of cerebral palsy. She clearly couldn't speak and yet the conversation those two were having drowned out the world. He couldn't have been more rapt, more fascinated or more interested in her and she knew it.  His love and tenderness took my breath away and I knew that for me, that interaction was today's gospel, homily and God's holy presence all wrapped up into one.  

That moment still inspires me.  And it reminds me why Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi and Martin Luther King are all revered.  They were (and in the Dalai Lama's case still are) able to give every single person that gaze of loving devotion. There is no price.  The criminal, the leper, the sick, the mentally ill...all of us...are worthy simply because we are here. 

So...I guess I've stumbled onto an extra New Year's Resolution.  In addition to the exercise I need to do, the closets I need to clean or the letters I need to write comes a real challenge: look at the world with a gaze of love.  Yes, that means even when my kids bug me, when someone is rude, annoying, self-centered, obnoxious, needy, intolerable or just plain wrong I need to hold my gaze and offer my love.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to blow it a million times but why not give it a try...that's what resolutions are all about.

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