When the plane took off I knew the next 11 hours were going to be brutal. I was sick. I did my best to let my arm and sweatshirt muffle my hacking cough, while trying to make the wad of Kleenex (a.k.a rolled up tissue paper from the airport bathroom) not look like a grotesque display that screamed, how did I get lucky enough to sit six inches away from this girl?!
I was in the middle seat. Landlocked. As I shrunk down to minimal size, a missionary sat down on my right. He was a cute kid with a face the shade of pale green and gray. I tried to make some short conversation after takeoff, honestly just to make sure he was ok, and he let me know that he’d already been on a train for 12 hours, and a 4 hour flight (he was returning from Bucharest). I said something about what an amazing experience he must have had, to which he kind of laughed, looked up, and said, “I loved the people, but the experience was hard.” He then lowered his food tray, put his head down, and only rose once the whole flight to drink some ginger ale, because that’s what people drink on planes.
His comment reminded me of something that had been on my mind. Loving well. I had heard the phrase, “but he loved well” in reference to someone’s life a few weeks prior, and it stuck with me. I wanted to know what that meant, how it looked, in a more tangible sense.
My grandma was a lady with a huge heart who skipped Relief Society to drink Diet Coke, and would chat at length with a down and out looking person at a store, or on a sidewalk. During my first year of teaching, when I had had it, she told me, “just remember, you might be the only friendly face they see all day – so just try and love them.” Throughout my youth I dropped off anonymous notes and groceries to many families, and when I asked why she insisted on paying my college roommate’s tuition one semester, she said, “because I was sitting in my room thinking about her, and I started singing the words, because I have been given much, I too must give, and I knew what to do.”
As I sat with stiff legs and a semi-comotose mind, I thought about this idea in between bouts of Spotify, endless episodes of Fixer Upper, The Hollars, which reprised my love of John Krasinksi, and finished up with Sense and Sensibility.
Just as I was about to go nuts from endless sitting and watching, Emma Thompson, playing Elinor Dashwood, totally lost it at the end of Sense and Sensibility. I get a lot of my Jane Austen characters and plots mixed up (don’t hate me), and had forgotten the ending between Elinor and Edward. It was hilarious, sweet, and maybe a little too relatable. And I kind of lost it a little too. I blame the flight condition. But here’s the thing, Elinor had been so stoic and fine for so long in regards to receiving any kind of love, that when an unexpected overture was expressed, she literally could not contain it. Let’s also acknowledge that a lot of the issues were because of playing it safe and not communicating, but that’s another post connected to loving well.
These random real and fictional stories swirled in my mind, and while so different, it made me think that there was a common theme of stoicism in loving well. And sometimes this works because loving can be hard, and is hard to receive back, but sometimes it’s time to let it go and just give and receive. One does not guarantee the other however. I’m finding those who need the most love, often can give the best kind of love. We need to practice the reception of love too. I’m still working it out, but there is a symbiosis in loving well.
As we finally creaked our bodies up out of our seats, the missionary turned to me and said, “I hope you feel better, thanks for sitting by me”, and walked to his family.
What does loving well look like and feel like to you?