Just forget about whether this article is going to be interesting or not. It is. Take a breath, slow down. Resist the urge to flip the page. We need to talk.
We — you and I — have a problem. I feel like you’ve been ignoring me. Don’t look away while we’re talking; I want to see your eyes. Put your phone down for just one second.
I wrote an article in these pages, back in mid-2015, on the subject of “Love People.” I’ve just re-read it. It was pretty good.
But now the editor requests another article on the same subject.
He says, “Your assignment is to write an article on ‘Love People.’”
The same subject! Do you see where I’m going with this?
Didn’t I already write that one? Didn’t we already cover this subject? What more can be said?
Well, apparently, just because I wrote a pretty-good article on the subject of “Love People,” not everyone is perfectly loving people yet. So the editor thinks there might be a little more to say. He didn’t come out and accuse me of having written an imperfect article in 2015, but the suggestion was there. So, “strike one!”
And I feel like this is partly your fault, like maybe you’re not really trying.
Since 2015, have we been trying?
Globally: North Korea, Brexit, Syria, Venezuela … big stories, but not new stories.
Nationally: Donald J. Trump, anger, fear, sadness … he and the country’s divisions have been the big story, but not new stories.
Personally: You fill in the blank … births, deaths, marriages, divorces, lost jobs, new jobs, credit-card debt. These are the perennial stories — thankfully interspersed with new stories of victories, forgiveness, hope and new starts.
Then this magazine requests: Let’s write another story on “Love People.”
Is this a crazy “Groundhog Day” plot, or is this exactly what we should expect and need? Should every issue need an article on “Love People?” We could number them like “Love People #132b.” Maybe globally, nationally and personally, every story should find its correction in “Love People.”
Frankly, the instruction to “Love People” is not that complicated: Love People. They’re only two words.
I would be more understanding of our failure to comply if the instructions were more complicated, like what if we had to follow the instructions of Leviticus 7:3–4? “All its fat shall be offered: the fat tail and the fat that covers the internal organs, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which is to be removed with the kidneys.”
I can see how some people might not understand exactly what they’re to do when they’re standing there before a dead ram wondering, “Where is the fat near the loins?”
But we’re only talking about two short words, “Love People.”
Or maybe the problem is that these instructions are too simple. Perhaps we’re waiting for a newer, cooler revelation about how to solve the world’s problems like if I were to suggest that all the world’s problems could be solved by everyone hopping on their left foot at the same time while saying the words “hippety-hoppety” in Samoan (“no’o musamusa,” try it; it’s catchy). I could probably start a new sect, the Rollerites. “Love People” is just too, you know, 18th century — too much a tread-worn slogan that has seen better days. All together now, “No’o musamusa.”
So I get it. The instructions aren’t new, complicated or clever. This is like walking as opposed to PiYo workouts — bland and easily understood.
Or are they? Do we understand these two simple words?
Wait, before you say anything, ask yourself this simple question “Do I Love People?”
If you’re telling the truth, your answer will be something like, “Some people, some of the time.”
See. We do know what the words mean. We just have trouble doing it.
I’m about ready to give up here. I can tell your attention is wandering. Don’t deny it. I can tell you’re like, “OK, he’s said everything he’s going to say.”
No, I have not. I’m not done, so just stay where you are. Please. No, your phone didn’t just vibrate.
Here’s the heart of the matter. We stop loving too soon.
“Love People” means “Keep on Loving People.” It’s a continuing action.
Everybody’s loving until they’re not. It’s what happens after “until they’re not” that’s making me write another article. You’ve quit.
We easily love people on “our side,” “our country” and “our family,” but whenever a person isn’t in those circles, it’s not natural to love them (except for children — everybody seems to love children regardless of whose circles they’re in). So, if cross words are exchanged in a family, or horns honked in a traffic jam, we stop loving. We quit loving.
I know you have to go. Plus, I can see I’m at the bottom of the page. I still had more to say about sports teams and immigrants, Democrats and Republicans, and your spouse and your pastor, but I’m out of space.
Can we try to do a little better this time? How about a little follow-through this time? I do not want to have to have this talk again. I do not want the editor calling me in 2019 and asking for an article on “Love People.”
I would perhaps stop loving my editor if that were to happen.