No seriously, think about it for moment. When was the last time you told someone you loved them? Not in a casual manner absent of any real depth or sustenance. I mean really told someone you loved them, whether it be in a manner fit for a romantic paramour or simply someone whose light is so bright that it causes your heart to overflow.
Go ahead, I'll wait.
Been a while perhaps? The last such occurrence in my life, oddly enough, was the evening I penned these words but before that? Quite a long time. Therefore I must thank the beautiful muse who is the inspiration for this particular piece. Her unsolicited and overflow of loving words gave me much warmth during an otherwise frigid season. Te quiero mi amor.
Perhaps the word 'love' is too intense or bitter a flavor on the tongue for some. So let's scale it back for a moment. When was the last time you were kind to someone you didn't have to be kind to? The last time you did something for someone because you noticed they needed it?
Don't feel too guilty if it takes you some time to come up with an answer. Lord knows I am not the daily example of such grace, but I try my best, as often as I can manage it. Humans as a species do not love each other nearly enough. It's not an opinion—it's a fact. I don't know where along the road we seemed to have lost this capability as a species, but it is certainly becoming ever harder to find people who love others as naturally as they breathe and possess the empathy and compassion that make us human... not savages.
Everybody seems to despise somebody else for some reason or no reason at all. The population hates the establishment. Blacks despise cops. Pence wants to 'reform' gays (my apologies, he just wants to send them all to summer camp to get more in touch with mother nature *eye roll*). Trump's scapegoat is Muslims (apologies, as he puts it, "people from these places"...I don't know what that means either) although he seems to be warming to our neighbors south of the border.
Every time I scroll through my Facebook feed some person or another has taken it upon themselves to record a video RAILING against one person, group, race, gender, political party or religion. Hell, I've seen people discriminate against those who prefer two wheels as a mode of transportation as opposed to four.
How did we get here? How did we as a species become so shallow and divisive? Where along the line did it become our instinct to point our fingers first and think afterwards? Is this not backwards?
I never thought I would be able to tear myself away from my cell phone and my Facebook feed. Turns out the post-election social media storm possessed enough reviled hate to finally push me over that edge and break me of that habit. I think last week was the first time I posted on Facebook in more than a month. I simply could not look at the damned app anymore. Every time I did my hope for humanity faded faster and faster.
I thought there was a better way to live. A way of life where people can actually exist in somewhat of a harmonious state. Where people love each other and show it. Where people look out for others and compassion and empathy are routine... not rarities.
Perhaps I'm just in love with love, a temporary symptom of youth and lack of life experience, or so I was once told. I certainly hope that's not true, although the same spirit in the aforementioned line would most certainly chalk that hope up to the naivety that must always accompany youth. If that is true then I truly hope and pray that I never outgrow my 'naivety'. I hope I always live blinded by such rose-colored glasses because I love to love and nothing brings me more peace and joy than seeing people love those around them.
I can recall a few such moments that I humbly bore witness to.
One such occasion was in the waiting area of an Italian post office. I was there to mail some documents to Rome for my Permit of Stay during academic year in Milan. As I stood there, examining the other occupants of the waiting room, I witnessed an interaction that I still cannot get out of my head because it was a part of a common pattern I was seeing constantly in this country.
A young mother (if I had to guess she was somewhere between the ages of 26-30) with a baby in a stroller walked into the relatively small post office, went up the kiosk at the entrance, took a number and sat down. She began pushing the stroller in front of her back and forth as her son lay nestled comfortably with a big smile on his face. Her son could not have been more than 6 months in age. He sat there swinging his arms and making loud noises and sometimes blowing cherries with his lips. None of the noises were screams or cries, they were all happy noises, but they were noises nonetheless and not exceptionally quiet ones either. The entire time he laid there he had the most enormous (and toothless) smile on his face. The mother was interacting with her son just as loudly. Loud enough for everyone to hear quite clearly. She would blow cherries back at him, laugh, smile and baby talk to him. She would shake her head and nuzzle his tummy as he giggled in laughter. I thought the interaction was beautiful.
I took a moment to survey the room and noticed mixed reactions. A middle aged woman looked on at the mother and son with a soft smile possessing the kind of warmth only found in a woman who has had children of her own at one time her life.
A portly gentleman in the back of the room looked up sternly from his paper once or twice when the baby laughed particularly loud but flashed a nearly hidden smile before returning to the headlines of the day.
Another woman, not much younger than the mother, rolled her eyes through her headphones as the mother and son carried on.
Then there was me. I was standing in the back of the room, surveying its occupants but particularly the mother and son. Watching them together brought forth a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart. I remember smiling so big that I lowered my head in case the mother turned around. I could only imagine what her initial judgement would be upon turning to find a strange young man smiling enormously at her and her infant son. I can't say I would blame any of those hypothetical judgments either, our world can be a precarious one sometimes.
I took a moment to contemplate how people in my country might view a similar interaction. I feel like most people would find the noise disturbing and annoying. I don’t see how, were they loud… sure but maybe we need to exercise more compassion towards others and not as quick to find the nuisance in everything. I mean maybe I am being too harsh on Americans, but I feel like the common reaction would be annoyance. Tell me I'm wrong.
I saw another similar interaction on the metro a few days earlier. I was standing in one of the Metro cars on the 10 stop trek back to the monastery we were living in during our first few weeks in Milan. I saw a short woman with a young girl who must’ve been her daughter. The woman was holding the metal pole for balance and her daughter had her arms locked around her mother’s waist, with the pole jutting up between them. The daughter was young, perhaps 10 or 11 years old. Her hair ran all the way down her back slightly past her waist and she wore glasses. Her mother looked down on her smiling with endearment. The daughter held her mother nearly the entire ride and rested her head on her mother’s chest looking quite peaceful. Throughout the course of the ride the young girls mother would whisper something to her in Italian and she would lift her head and look at her mother. Her mother would make a face or wrinkle her nose and the daughter would mimic her and say something back to her.
I wish desperately I had more than an elementary understanding of the language at that time so I could have had some idea of what they were saying to each other. But truthfully? I didn't need to know a word of the language know what they were saying. They rubbed noses together, kissed, laughed and smiled together. It was the warmest interaction. I do not think I have ever seen anything like that in The States. Now granted, I do not live in a major metropolis or see thousands of people every day, I live in a suburban area and only see the city a dozen or so times a year, but I have seen NYC enough over my life to know I have never seen an interaction in public as warm as this. I almost feel like the public would view such and open, warm and touchy interaction as weird or not normal. WHY THE HECK IS THAT NOT NORMAL?!
Maybe that’s why we (The US) are such an unhappy country compared to other places in the world. Yup, thats a real and documented thing... trust me I checked.
I noticed during my time in Italy and the rest of the continent that people seem to be in less of a rush to get to places. I don’t think I have sat down anywhere for less than two hours and that's not just because of the carbs and gelato. They don’t bring you the check as soon as you are done eating, they always ask if you want coffee after you’ve eaten and never bring the check if you have not asked for it. We spent nearly two and a half hours in one café after walking for most of the day, just talking to each other and conversing. People here also smile at each other when they see one another, far more than in the US. People greet nearly everyone! Sometimes several times. It’s a truly amazing culture and, while I was only there for short period of time, I believe that I like it more than my own already.
I’ve seen women gently stroking the hair of their male paramours on the metro, men laying in the laps of their lovers while they play with their hair or their faces as they lay there. The people just seem more peaceful here and happiness, kindness and compassion can be found in abundance. It’s just astonishing to me how these public displays of affection would be viewed as too “in your face” in America. I know this because that was my initial reaction upon seeing these interactions for the first time. It was in that moment that I realized just how much the environment had conditioned me to react a certain way to certain things and in that same moment that I began to understand just how big the rest of the world really is.
Perhaps Americans are too entitled as a people. Maybe we think because we have one of the largest planes of freedom compared to any country in the world it is our God given right to not have to see what we don’t want to see and hear what we don’t want to hear. But how can this be in one of the most diverse countries in the world? It’s statistically impossible, in a country as diverse as ours, that we will not hear or see in our lifetimes an opinion or display that we find unfavorable to our personal beliefs. Must we always take such a vested interest in the actions of others? Don’t get me wrong. If someone is throwing it in your face, I understand and believe that you should not have to put up with that.
However, I feel we are too invested in the business of others around us, this mother and her daughter were not throwing there interactions in the face of the other passengers. Could everyone else see it? Sure. But they were only focused on each other in their little circle or happiness near the subway door. Perhaps we need to not care so much about what others around us are doing in the US. So what if a girl is kissing her boyfriend’s cheek repeatedly as an act of endearment? Who cares if the mother is making her baby smile and laugh? As it is, we do not smile and laugh enough as a people, no, a species.
The way I see it, how dare I get annoyed at this interaction. God forbid, I do anything to interrupt it. Sometimes I even question why my mind thinks this way. Is it a condition of the society I was raised in? Is it due to our society being too far gone?
I don't have the answers to those kind of questions and while I might not know much (in my 'youthful naivety' *eye roll*) I do know that being consistently and indiscriminately kind to others has never done anything but bring me happiness, joy, beautiful interactions, vivid experiences and unbreakable bonds.
Cheers to youthful naivety, love and compassion. We certainly could all use a lot more of all three.