Or so I thought.
I had this idea of what I thought love was: it was Harry telling Sally on New Year’s Eve just how much she meant to him; it was Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell jumping ship and swimming toward each other at the end of Overboard; it was Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski overcoming various obstacles throughout high school and college to end up together in the end; it was Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence finally realizing how they felt about one another after years of growing up together; it was Todd placing three different candy hearts that said “Marry me” on them in front of Christy before she finally realized he was proposing (and most of you have probably never read the Christy Miller Series, but you should); it was Squints Palledorous jumping into the deep end of the pool, knowing he couldn’t swim and essentially faking his own drowning all so he could kiss lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn; it was Ariel giving up her beautiful singing voice so that she could become human to spend time with Eric.
Obviously entertainment media had a huge influence on my perception of love.
Over the years, however, I’ve come to see that love is so much more than my youthful mind could have imagined. It’s not just some concept of two people realizing they want to be more than friends. It’s not just butterflies in your stomach when your dream person enters the room. It’s not just a feeling.
Love is something you do.
I went on a walk with my mom yesterday, and I was reminded of why my definition of love changed so drastically as my heart matured. As we were walking down my parents’ street toward the duck pond, my mom noticed a nail laying on the sidewalk—something I didn’t even see and something most people probably would have ignored. She, however, picked up that dirty thing and carried it with her to dispose of in one of the trash cans at the park. My mom has one of the biggest hearts of anyone you will ever meet, and she has this unexplainable love for any living being. She’s constantly caring for others, even strangers who could potentially encounter a nail on the pavement. That’s what love does. As we continued our walk, we chatted about various things, and we mentioned one particular person who is not the nicest individual in the world. My mom easily could have said plenty of negative things about this person, but she didn’t. In fact, she started pointing out all of this individual’s good qualities. It hit me in that moment that my mom is one of the reasons I am such a fan of love—she has always modeled it so purely and in a way that draws others in to her warmth and sincerity. She doesn’t want to waste her time bashing others when she can be using it to build people up and use kindness in place of hate. That’s what love does.
And don’t think that entertainment media can’t also show examples of what love really means: it’s Anna stepping in front of Hans’s sword meant to kill her sister, Elsa; it’s King Triton letting his daughter go and turning Ariel back into a human when he realizes how much she wants to be with Eric; it’s Ross folding his hand of cards and not letting anyone know what he had, because he wanted Rachel to win their meaningless game of poker and to see her happy; it’s Dottie Hinson dropping the ball at the plate so that her younger sister, Kit, could be the hero for once; it’s Lee Brice singing about hating to dance yet twirling the woman he adores around the dance floor; it’s Bruce Willis pushing Ben Affleck out of the way and giving up his own life in Armageddon so that his daughter won’t lose the man she is going to marry; it’s Thomas J. losing his life in My Girl when he has an allergic reaction to hornet stings after he goes to look for his best friend’s mood ring that she lost when the two were playing in the woods; it’s Belle taking the place of her father to live in imprisonment with a seemingly ferocious beast.
That’s what love does.
I still have my fairytale beliefs of falling in love and kissing in gazebos, but I also know that love is more than writing across a screen that says, “…and they lived happily ever after.” We have the ability to show love to others every single day if we are willing to take on a little bit of selflessness. The greatest act of love this world has ever seen is the epitome of that: grace so big that He died on a cross so that we can live.
I love seeing examples of love all around me. It makes my heart smile when I realize that there are genuine people out there who truly want to love others. I’ve never told a guy I love him, and I’ve never had one say those three little words to me, but I know a love so much bigger than words could ever express.
And that is a reason to love love even more.