“Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39
How are we supposed to understand what it means to love someone – our neighbor – unless we have been exposed to love ourselves? You might say the same question applies to suffering; for how can we truly understand another person’s pain unless we have had at least some exposure to suffering ourselves? We are only able to love our neighbors because we first experienced it ourselves. Love is acquired from someone who loved us first. Then and only then do we have it to give away.
Recently I attended an early morning breakfast event that was in the neighborhood of my former corporate business office. So, afterwards on the spur of the moment I took the opportunity to drop in. It had been twelve years since my departure from that company, yet as I wandered the hallways I was both amazed and humbled by the number of old friends who sprang from their desks when they saw me, greeting me with hugs and handshakes. A similar experience occurred a few years ago after I had suffered a pulmonary embolism that nearly took my life and spent several days in the hospital. Old friends appeared at my bedside out of the woodwork. Such experiences have re-awakened in me the power of being loved and the need to pass that love along.
“There’s a reason “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been so resonant for decades,” writes Harvard business professor Clayton Christiansen in his book How Will You Measure Your Life? “[for] what matters most in the darkest hours of George Bailey’s life are the many personal relationships he has invested in along the way. He recognizes, by the end of the film, that though he is poor, his life is rich in friendships.” At the conclusion of the movie George receives a gift from his guardian angel Clarence, a copy of the book Tom Sawyer. Inside the cover Clarence had written a message reminding George that “no man is a failure who has friends.” Then George’s brother Harry raises his glass, “To my big brother, George,” he toasts, “the richest man in town.”
Like George Bailey I think I must be the richest man in town. May I be ever mindful of opportunities to love others the way my many friends have shone love to me.