Love. It’s incredible how a four-letter word can possess highly charged emotions, strong opinions, memories, feelings of elation, pain of loss, and everyday comfort. One interprets it uniquely through his/her life experience as there is no right or wrong way to express, define, and appreciate it. But what can generally be agreed upon is that as humans on some level or another it’s what we desire. It nurtures and heals us, it allows for growth and discovery, and it’s what makes the heart beat in a forward motion; whether for ourselves or for others.
Love in its truest form is neutral and benevolent; it transforms and takes shape in the heart and mind of the beholder. Many times we focus on the root of love hoping that it grows into a romantic union leading to a lifetime partnership and perhaps raising a family. But love is present in a multitude of relationships and interpersonal exchanges. Why should we limit and deny ourselves of giving and receiving it through the many wonderful incarnations it provides?
During Sunday lunch at a rustic restaurant in the Italian countryside, families and friends of all ages gathered to dine on the farm fresh cuisine—shared family style. Surrounded by the simple beauty of the establishment while overlooking the rural landscape, everyone commented on how delicious the food was as well as the volume. Amongst the moments of eating in silence and the occasional sounds of enjoyment between each bite, something so profound yet natural happened; the exchanges of love.
Parents assisted their young children and embraced them with care, couples held hands and shared looks of affection, grandparents proudly explained the accomplishments of their grandchildren, friends laughed and talked with unending smiles, and strangers engaged in pleasant conversation. Within three passing hours in good company, the overwhelming sense of love was felt by all. Its kindness, comfort, and expansiveness.
A dear couple, Anna and Ezio, who have been married for almost 50 years invited me to join them and their family and friends to experience an important facet of traditional Italian life. Not only have they “adopted me” as their own, but they continuously teach me what love looks and feels like in all its forms from romantic and familial through friendship based upon their life experiences and stories. Although the men and women were divided while seated at the table so conversations could take place with ease, Anna every so often asked Ezio if he wanted seconds. He acknowledged her with a nod and stare of appreciation. They both tended to their teenage granddaughter, making sure she tried everything and proceeded to ask their company the same. It was clearly evident that it gave them great pleasure to ensure everyone felt cared for and at ease and in turn they were equally satisfied. Through simple words, gestures, and actions, they transmitted love wholeheartedly and it was happily reciprocated. I couldn’t help but feel so blessed and cared for—nurtured, protected, and appreciated.
Upon finishing lunch, our content and loving hearts were revealed, as were those of the other patrons through warm goodbyes and promises of seeing each other again…next Sunday, same time and same place.