Practice Loving Strangers

Practicing Love
It’s so much easier to love a stranger than it is to love those we know well.  We can see the flaws that strangers have, but those flaws don’t impact us, don’t affect us or trigger us or challenge us.  Those flaws, in a stranger, can be the beautiful things that make this person human and they can cause us to love them all the more. It doesn’t matter if a stranger receives our love or not.  It doesn’t mean anything if they aren’t present enough with us to realize that we are loving them.  We don’t expect anything in return from a stranger.  We know that we are loving them purely because we are choosing to, with no agenda and no expectations attached.

Loving The People
I enjoy taking the bus or the subway because there are so many people there to love.  Not one of them is expecting me to love them.  Not one of them expects anything from me except the barest of common courtesy. They certainly aren’t expecting me to see them for who they are and to love them no matter what.  And most of them don’t see me loving them even when I am.

The Homeless
There is a homeless man in my area.  I can tell that he is a dangerous man – someone who you wouldn’t want to get angry at you.  But I have also seen him with a woman whom he clearly loves.  They cling to each other as though their love of each other will save them.  They are beautiful to watch together.  I love this man deeply.  And every time we are on the bus together, I look at him for much of the time – stare really – and I love him.  I’ve never spoken a word to him and when I am loving him, I don’t believe he even sees me.  It’s as though I don’t exist in his reality.  And that makes me love him even more.

We Practice Everything Else Worth Doing – Why Not Love?
Just like a sport or a new thought process, loving another person is a skill that we develop with practice – a muscle that gets stronger with use.  Loving is not about what we get back from others.  It is about what it does to us.  It doesn’t matter if we are received, it doesn’t matter if the love is reciprocated. It doesn’t matter if no one notices but us.  We have placed love into the world.  That act alone is the greatest act of charity that we can offer and it makes our loving muscles stronger – it strengthens the love skill.  If we can go into the world and love it – warts and all – then we become happier people just for having done it.

Practice Makes Imperfect – Perfection
When we can love strangers no matter whether we are received or not, appreciated or not, noticed or not, we learn then how to love those around us with that same openness.  We learn that everyone can’t be present with us all the time.  We learn that just because someone doesn’t receive your love today doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthy of that love.  We learn to see what we would have previously called their imperfections as being perfect for where they are in this moment.  We learn that loving the other person is something we do for ourselves, not because we need anything back from them in return.  And, of course, many times that love is returned and we get the joy associated with that experience.  But we’re not attached to it.

Love Must Be Freely Offered
When love is demanded and offered grudgingly in return, something of it is lost.  It’s like demanding someone buy you a gift and surprise you with it.  The intent to surprise you and make you happy that would have been there is gone because your demand robbed you of it.  Sure, they might not have purchased the gift or thought to surprise you without the demand, but in demanding it you guarantee the loss.  Love must be freely offered in order for you to receive it in full measure.  You cannot demand love and expect it to arrive.  You can only be open to receiving it – and be sending it out yourself.

Practice Loving
So try it.  Go out in the to world and love your fellow humans.  Practice seeing the beauty in them and the world around you.  Don’t expect anyone to notice or care that you are loving them.  Just be love and see what happens to your world view.

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