*This is a guest post by my brother. I love him. He's brilliant. I turned Shoved to Them over to him for today.*
Sunday was Mother’s Day. (Somewhere, someone just thwacked the side of his head and blurted out some expletives because he forgot, and now needs to do some serious sucking up. I digress.)
Sunday was Mother’s Day, which means that Hallmark made a lot of money on cards. I bought one. I’m sure you did too. It’s the right, loving, obligatory thing to do. Last week, I ran down to the local card shop and perused their selection, trying to find a couple of cards for my wife. That’s right; my wife is so special she deserves TWO cards on Mother’s Day! I picked out two that I liked, one silly and one serious, and made for the checkout. The lady at the counter rang up the serious card: $5.95.
Are you serious?! $5.95 for a card? It doesn’t even play music!!! But hey, anything for the love of my life!
My reaction to the card price got me thinking, though, about love. Does my wife need a card to know that I love her? Hopefully not. Hopefully, I’ve done a good enough job of demonstrating my love for her over the last eight years (more or less) that the measure of my affection isn’t limited to the quality and price of the card I bought her for Mother’s Day.
(How are greeting cards not emotional plagiarism? I mean, you’re essentially taking someone else’s poetry and attributing it to yourself as though you had written it. “Well, it says exactly what I feel?” Really? Then why not write it yourself? Yes, I’m a hypocrite.)
Greeting card love is cheap and insignificant unless backed by true, present, heartfelt, demonstrative love. Love can be demonstrated in a number of ways, but certainly one of the most important is simply showing up. You can often tell who really cares, who really loves you by noting who actually shows up instead of just calling or sending a card (especially an e-card. Really, you don’t care enough to spend $3 and postage?).
Over the last few years, I can’t help but take note of who is consistently there, and who is consistently not in my life. My sister and my mom, for example, are bedrocks of support in my life. I know that they will be there to comfort me when things go bad or to cheer me when things go right. Even when they do not agree with some of the decisions I make, they have never abandoned me or written me off. I know I can depend on them and their love for me and my family.
There are others who are there only when it is convenient or when it benefits them. Sure, they send cards (often just e-cards). They are not present, not because of ability but because of their own choice.
It’s amazing how easy it is to see who actually loves you when you are in the middle of a crisis or triumph. Who actually shows up when you are in the hospital facing possible death or amputation? As a dad, a brother, and a son, I cannot imagine not showing up for family, regardless of the distance. Who is there when your kids are born (or shortly thereafter)? Who comes when you graduate from college or celebrate some major accomplishment in your life?
Even more telling, however, is who is there for you when life is not extraordinary. Life is not composed of big events, but a lot of little ones like soccer games, band concerts, church, watching TV, playing ball, keeping promises, phone calls, or just visiting. Do my kids actually know you, or are you just a name to them? Some Tooth Fairy-like figment who sends cards and gifts, but whom they wouldn’t know or feel comfortable running up and hugging.
I try to be there for my wife in the big things, but I don’t want to neglect the little things as well. Because the little things, whether we are present or absent, adds up to larger totals than all of the big things. And no amount of cards, gifts, or money can make up for that lack of demonstrative love. Cards are cheap. And love is easy when it is just words. Greeting Card Love is worth the price of the card – usually around $3.
So, go buy cards. But back them up with a lifetime of real, present love.