A true story: A homeless man was sitting on the curb in front of a gas station entrance, with his girlfriend. He was taking a break from waving a cardboard sign on the corner, asking for help from strangers. A man came out of the gas station, seeing the sign, and asked the homeless man if he needed anything: blankets, cigarettes, food, etc. The homeless man and his girlfriend agreed to cigarettes and a couple of energy drinks. The man came out and handed the requested items he had just purchased to the homeless man and his girlfriend. He then asked again if there was anything else they needed? Before they had a chance to answer, he told them to wait there and went back into the gas station. He returned a few minutes later with a rolled up wad of cash and handed it to the homeless man and walked away. The homeless man didn’t wait long before he opened up his hand to count the money. He was given one-hundred dollars! The homeless man ran up to this generous stranger and with tears in his eyes hugged and thanked the man for his kindness. He paused and said, “Most people who give me money ask me not to spend it on drugs or alcohol…But I have to be honest, I will probably use it to buy alcohol.” The man replied, “Use it for whatever you want. My friends and I are about to go the bar and do the same thing!” The homeless man was taken back. This had never happened before. Anytime anyone had given him money, there was always a stipulation of how to use the money. This act was one of kindness and non-judgment. The stranger gave his money with “no strings” attached and no expectations.
Upon hearing this story, I wondered if I could do the same. We may all think, “Oh, I could do that”. But the truth is, we are often judgmental. I am definitely one of those people that would hope a homeless person would use the money I give for food, shelter, or clothing (not drugs or booze). We give because it feels good and we want to help others, do we not? Yet, we believe and are often told by others that if we give booze to a drunk, we are a part of the problem and enabling their behavior. But even if this is true, we are making choices based on our own morals and standards, not theirs. When we donate money, we usually choose an organization that we believe in or want to support (i.e. animals, youth, homeless, the poor, political campaigns, local businesses, etc.). Do you think you could give your money away to someone without caring how it is used? We give to what we deem as worthy.
So this thought led to another. In the same way, could we love others without expectations? You see, we often do love with expectations. We love with the expectation that we are loved in return. We love with expectations that they will play a certain role in our lives. Can we love others with no strings attached? You may want to jump in and say yes; of course I can, but think about it for a moment. Just as we choose what organization to donate our money to, we also choose the people we want in our lives (or don’t want). When we look for traits in friends, we look for others that add to our lives, people that are generous, listen to us, help us when we need it, are thoughtful, fun to be around, and often that have a similar belief system. What if we loved others not for who they are (social status, religious affiliation, similar interests, etc.) or what they provide in our lives or the roles they play, but simply for the sake of love?
Some parents disown their children because they are gay or lesbian or transsexual, etc. Some siblings get into an argument and stop talking to one another. Some friends stop making an effort, lose touch, or decide that someone is not behaving as a friend anymore and they drop them from their lives. My purpose is not to judge or condemn these behaviors. I am simply providing examples of ways that some of us love with “strings attached”. We may not say it out loud or perhaps we are not even aware of our own thoughts. The next few examples are that of a parent to their child, but are applicable to other relationships as well.
“I love you if you are straight.”
“I love you if you listen to me.”
“I love you if do what I want you to do.”
“I love you if you are a good boy or girl.”
I think we have many reasons why we love each other, why we value each other, why we care for each other and protect each other. I just wonder if our love can be for the sake of love, instead of love that comes with attachments or prerequisites. I wonder if I can have that kind of love for others; without roles, without expectations, with “no strings attached”. I do love people just because I love them, but sometimes I do get upset if they don’t make time for me or if someone hurts my feelings, but it is almost too easy to take things personal. It is like everything I can ever learn about people and life is summed up into one word…love. When I ask why should I be the better person and apologize? Answer: Love. What is my purpose here on earth? What is the point? Answer: Love. Are you seeing a pattern here? 😉
One poem that came to mind, while exploring this topic, was the “Do It Anyway” poem, by Mother Theresa. I don’t know if I can be like Mother Theresa or like Jesus who loved people “anyway”, and not because of the role they played, who they were, or what they did; but just because, for love’s sake, with no attachments.