Right now, my people, the South African nation, have a lot to say about power. But they don’t have a lot of power. They don’t talk about love a lot, but I don’t think they have a lot of love either. Especially when you hear them fantasise about slow-roasting the directors of Eskom (our bloated, dysfunctional, mismanaged state-owned electricity non-supplier) over some candles.
Yes, today is Valentine’s Day. I don’t “do” Valentine’s Day. I suppose some people need to hear, “I love you,” at least once a year. My wife and I fortunately don’t have to wait a whole year to say,”I love you.” In fact, we say it every time we meet each other during the day. Maybe more so now than when we got married fifteen years ago.
Romance is not love. Sorry to pop your bubble. Romance is a setting. Love is a tough choice. A choice you have to make many times a day. If you are married, you have to choose to love your spouse, even though that person is not the same person you fell in love with. If you have children, you have to choose to love them even though they are not the children you dreamt of.
Your co-workers aren’t exactly perfect or likeable, either. The balding guy driving that brightly coloured sports car ahead of you doesn’t look worthy of your love, I know.
The basic law of economics is the law of supply and demand. Stuff in short supply and in high demand (like electricity in South Africa), becomes very valuable. Don’t believe me? Try to buy a generator right now.
And love? It must be the most valuable thing on earth. Everybody craves it, yet hardly anyone supplies it. But love breaks the law of supply and demand in crucial ways.
When love is given away, the giver finds more love inside to give away. The recipient, too. The power of love is this: it multiplies every time it is given away. On the other hand, the demand for love, our inner craving to be accepted, is best satisfied when we give away the little we have. Oddly, the more we choose to love the unlikeable, the more loved we feel.
As my youngest daughter told one of her older, teasing brothers, “I love you but I don’t like you.” Love hangs around long after the attractive bling of a romantic date has faded. But only if we keep choosing to love.
“I love you, not because of what is in you or what is in me, but because love is the only choice worth choosing.”
Almost every day, I see patients being cared for by spouses, relatives and friends, for no earthly reward. The road is hard, the romance gone. And still they care. And still the patients allow themselves to be cared for. The indignity of being weak and vulnerable is a gift to us, the healthy. Those who grasp the chance to show love, emerge more human. As humans, we owe it to one another, to help and be helped. Even long after the candles of Valentine’s Day (or Eskom) have burnt out.
What can one candle do? On the face of it, not much. But when darkness descends in its wretched, uninvited, unwanted emptiness, a candle brings welcome warmth and light, a small prophet of the goodness that is yet to come.
Every time you see a candle flickering, ask yourself, “Whose candle am I?”
Keep a candle burning in the night of human greed and depravity. That is the most rebellious, courageous, healthy thing you can do today.
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