Rogers column: Real ways to show love

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Valentine’s Day is that time of the year when we give extra attention to the special people in our lives.
It’s a time when cards and flowers say a lot, whether you’re a child giving cards to your classmates and teachers, a young man who has fancies for a young woman or a husband and wife giving that extra attention that all marriages need.
Yet do we really understand what it means to love? How hard is it for us to love that homeless person that we see on the street? What about the co-worker who drives a beat-up car that has worn-out seats and doesn’t start half the time? Or what about the person who has much wealth, with a large, expensive house or two, a Cadillac or BMW and so forth? Am I hitting a nerve yet?
For me, it was a resident of public housing where I worked many years ago. Larry (not his real name) was born with numerous birth defects. He had an extremely large head, small frame and short body. He was crippled and needed aid to walk.
My first encounter with Larry was when he asked me to take him to the homeless shelter for supper. I agreed, but was unprepared for the drive. I had to roll my window down. He really needed a bath.
I kept my distance from Larry from that point on. Then one day, it happened. My supervisor asked me to take Larry to the Department of Social Services. That visit changed his life and mine.
The birth defects Larry lived with daily affected his life in more ways than I had wanted to see. He could not get in and out of the tub in his apartment, so he rarely had a proper bath. His apartment was infested with roaches, as he was not able to clean it properly. The couch he slept on most of the time, had roaches all under the cushions and inside of it, too.
Larry had previously been in a program where a worker came to his apartment, cleaned it, made meals and gave him a bath. He had failed to complete forms for further assistance, so he was dropped from the program. Once he was reinstated to the program, his life changed for the better.
I have always been a loving person. Ask my mom. She says I’m too loving and too trusting. Yet I had not loved Larry. A few years ago, I heard that Larry had died. I felt such sorrow; I still feel sorrow at times.
There are many scriptures about love in the Bible.
Matthew 22:39 tells us that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The book of 1 John takes it a great deal further. 1 John 3:17-18 reads, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother hath need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
Valentine’s Day is a day of love. Cards, flowers, candy and jewelry will be given to sweethearts and others we love. But what about the folks at Rowan Helping Ministries, at the local nursing homes, at the hospital? What about our next-door neighbor? What about those with whom we go to church? Do we really love them the way God says we are to love?
I wish I could tell Larry what he did for me. I’d ask him to be my Valentine.