A common interest draws us together at first. Old men gather daily to play chess under the shade tree at the neighborhood park. Neighbors labor together on weekend mornings to convert a weedy abandoned lot into a vegetable garden. Members of the cast of a play surround a table to read a new script together. Interest in a shared goal then blossoms into friendships, defined by affection and respect, unaffected by differences of gender, age, politics, faith tradition, skin color, ethnic origins.
And so we bond ourselves to one another, willingly committing to a relationship with others, members of a group, originating in a shared interest but growing into something more — loyalty to one another and a level of caring that is genuine, from the heart. Has this happened to you? Do you sing in a choir? Meet with others in a book club? Participate in a bowling league?
This morning, I returned to the YMCA in my town to exercise with others, a group of about a dozen senior adults who have been meeting twice weekly for several years for this purpose. New members join, some folks leave, but the core of this bunch faithfully gathers to try to keep aging bodies in shape, and to visit with one another. Rarely does a session pass without an update on a fellow member’s extended absence, illness or surgical procedure. We sign cards, send flowers, visit. We pray privately. We hug.
One suddenly becomes single again when a beloved spouse dies. Breakfast becomes a bleak affair. All meals do. Days are longer, nights interminable. It is true that some individuals prefer being alone, and we respect their desire for privacy, but for most of us, being alone is unnatural.
How do you define love? What does it look like? To me, the neighborhood chess game players, the fellow gardeners, cast members, choir singers, book club members, bowling league team members, all are involved in relationships that have grown into love.
The Dalai Lama XIV summarizes this natural human urge beautifully: “We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”