Nalini Joseph: Begin 2021 with love
By Nalini Joseph
Each school morning, I drive through the circle, waiting for my turn to drop off.
As I sit in the car smiling and watching my son fumble around with his book bag (which weighs more than he does) for his water bottle and lunch bag, I secretly wait for what is my favorite part of the morning: his smile, a hug and kiss from him, and “I love you Mama.” That sublime, warm feeling inside doesn’t get any better. The only thing that can perhaps exceed that feeling is replying back with “I love you too Baba.” He then trudges off to have his temperature taken before going into his classroom.
The very word “love” seems quite inadequate in its scope when I consider what I feel when I hear or say that word “love” to him. When put into context with the usage above, other contexts seem almost too excessive. For instance, I may say, “Wow, I love my job” after a particularly fulfilling day of winning a battle in court for an abused child who is represented by my guardian ad-litem program.
The issue is not the context or the feeling of love. Perhaps it is in the inadequacy of the English language to express the various related feelings. The ancient Greek philosophers understood this quite well and expressed love in as many as seven different types of love.
What I feel for my son is what they called agape — a universal, divine type of love. The love I feel for my job is perhaps best described as philautia, which is a love that we extend to others by showing them care, concern and goodwill. I think you will immediately recognize the problem with this whole Greek system — although it is indeed quite a bit more advanced than our common everyday usage of the word “love,” it is at the same time much more difficult to determine which aspect of love we are feeling depending on the circumstance and the subjects involved.
Jan. 6, 2021 is a day that should live in every American’s mind who is old enough to understand what happened — regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum. GOP Sen. Ben Sasse’s call for us as Americans to love each other made an impression on me as I scrolled through one report after another about the happenings on Capitol Hill that day.
In a time when blatant hate permeates our nation, I noted that not many politicians use their platform to talk much about love. When we take a look at history, we see that many of these politicians that demonstrated and worked towards love were assassinated. Thankfully, these messages of love live on long after their demise. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. both were proponents of philia – brotherly love between those of different races and religions. I daresay philia is what Sen. Sasse called for, and I tend to agree with him.
The year 2020 brought out the worst in us and the best in us. With the onset of COVID, we witnessed first responders, nurses, physicians and others who put their lives on the line to help hundreds of thousands of their fellow Americans. What an immense showing of philia!
Many of our friends and family members are alive today because of the love shown by these heroes, these good samaritans in our hour of need as a nation.
On the other hand, there were those who took our differences and turned them into divisions and, as our divisions grew deeper, the dividers took full advantage of the situation. I think most sane people understood that this widening chasm was going to create a volcanic eruption. If only all the energy expended in promulgating hate could have been channeled into love, perhaps those Americans who were killed on January 6th would still be alive.
After a long day at work, no matter what has transpired — good or bad — my little boy’s hug and “Mama I love you” reassures me all that all is well with my soul. My prayer is for love to heal our fractured nation, for our leaders to find common ground beyond their partisanship, and above all, to assure us that all will be well in this great nation.
Joseph is a resident of Salisbury. She is the proud mother of 10-year honor-roll student, Rohan Joseph, who serves his community as president of COVID Busters. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.