How do you know when someone loves you? No really—think about it. How do you know? 

 

Reflect for a moment on someone who loves you—who positively loves you,  no sinew of a doubt. Have you been fortunate enough to have someone like that in your life?

I have. My grandmother loved me. We called her Nanny—and up until 2nd grade I honestly believed her real name was Nanny. (When I found out her true name was Borghild, I thought: no wonder she goes by ‘Nanny’). 

My eyes tear up just thinking of her. She was an artist. Two paintings she drew of Mount Rainier hang above my desk; and her never-ending hugs surround my heart still. She loved me, —and sometimes I wonder, ‘Why?’—more musing than mandating an answer, lightly perplexed because whatever it was I ‘brought to the table’ did not seem to merit her larger-than-life exuberance for me. It was a love that made no sense, no reason beyond familial tie—I was her grandson and she loved me. 

(Nanny was plump, her love hugs lasted for everrrrrr. Your neck bent out of shape, your nose got smushed, breath was compressed, shoulders crunched, and sometimes we feared getting lost in her bottomless bosom)

What? You gonna EARN that love? Nah… It just was. Her love was delightful, surprising, encouraging, and redemptive. 

Thinking about her, I reflect on another member of the extended family and wonder, What about him? (unnamed to avoid defamation suit). Did he love me?….hmm.…i think so, but I’m not sure, —odd to be uncertain whether someone loves you or not.

So how do you know when someone loves you? If they love you like Nanny did, here’s how it’s done:

They CELEBRATE you! They delight in you, in your being and your ‘being there’. They light up when they see you, they seem genuinely happier in your presence. 

They are INTERESTED in you, intrigued by you, curious about you. They ask questions & respectfully probe your soul, honoring your thoughts, your presence, your emotions. 

…makes you wonder how many starved souls out there feel ignored & invisible? How many clamor for attention in varied and unruly ways. They seek nourishment for their malnutritioned soul. I think of a woman I once knew, a former workmate. She was a crank, a know-it-all who constantly interrupted her colleagues, forced her opinions down with a slam that demanded acquiescence. Who knows, maybe she was in pursuit of some elusive element her starved heart deeply craved. She was an ‘honor my ideas or be damned’ kind of gal.

How do you know someone loves you? They CARE for you. They observe with concern, and they care for your wellbeing. If your own disregard endangers you, they will engineer your conduct towards a track of betterment and well-being. They might feed you, or question your diet; re-clothe you if you’ve worn the same sweatshirt eight days running; trim a hair, kiss a boo-boo, medicate an ouchy, soothe a hurt feeling, show compassion, shine a light on you.  

How do you know someone loves you? They ESTEEM you. They know you, mistakes and all, and yet they love you, they accept you just the way you are, as if in reverence for your individuality. You are adored you in spite of your shortcomings. 

Many times I misbehaved. Once in junior high school at a dance I drank some vodka straight from the bottle, turned inside out throwing up in the bathroom, tried to explain to the vice-principal who caught me that ‘i had the flu’ (even as I pulled my stomach out of the toilet and shoved it back down my throat); he drove me home, I think—and then I puked all over my bedroom floor. Everyone was mad at me—especially my brother who shared the bedroom—and no one seemed inclined to forgive me, except for Nanny. She did not condone my behavior; but her love for me rose above my nasty deeds. 

So let me ask: do you feel unloved? Do you feel nobody loves you? If so, let me first suggest you are wrong. I know God loves you (though you may not know it yet); and you are likely missing the signals of the people here on earth who love you too. 

But for sake of discussion, let’s say you are unloved. Here then a nugget of advice: You Become a Lover. Love your neighbors. Love your friends. No friends? Then love your acquaintances! (Not in a ‘romantic’ or erotic sense—but in a Nanny kind of way)

How? Take an INTEREST in people. CELEBRATE them. CARE for them. ACCEPT them for who they are (even if they’re ‘different’. You can esteem & accept them without endorsing their behavior or beliefs or whatever it is about them that rubs you wrong). 

You’re not the only one who feels unloved. You’ll be making deposits into love-starved hearts, some of whom will never forget your kindness & compassion…and three things will happen. 

1. You’ll be reminded that it is better to give than to receive.

2. You will ‘lose yourself’ in others, and then you’ll find yourself imbued with joy.

2. You’ll be giving love, and love will be given back to you.

I have a disorganized memory. Once I forgot my own birthday. But I remember October 14, 1986: the day my Nanny died. Thirty years since, my eyes tear up and I miss her still. You know why, don’t you? That’s right: because she loved me. 

Love people, and they’ll cry when you die too.