In season

A fruit stand in Sorrento, Italy, May 2008

A fruit stand in Sorrento, Italy, May 2008

“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within the reach of every hand.” 
Mother Teresa 

With all the people in the world who are hurting for lack of love, can we really believe that it is within the reach of every hand?  Absolutely yes, if we think of love as something to give rather than something to receive.   A number of studies have established that loving others is inextricably linked with happiness.  And anyone can love (or learn to love) others, regardless of whether that love appears to be reciprocated in the same measure.

Think of celebrities who are subject to the intrusive attentions of thousands or millions of fans who “love” them.  Is this sort of one-way adoration and attention the key to happiness for these stars?  I know few people who would say that it is.   But genuine love for other people — not actions done with the hope of some sort of payback, but real, unalloyed affection — seems to increase our sense of purpose and well-being in ways not necessarily tied to what we get in return.  Even tending to pets or houseplants has been correlated with increased life span and contentment.

There’s a wonderful moment near the end of the movie Marvin’s Room, in which an unmarried woman dying of cancer after years of care-taking her aging parents tells her younger, more selfish sister not to feel sorry for her.  “I’ve been so lucky,” she tells her.  “I’ve had so much love.”  The younger sister replies, “Yes, they love you very much.”  “Oh,” the dying sister says, “I mean my love for them. I’ve been so lucky to have two people in my life to love so much.”

That line has stuck with me.  Love really is within anyone’s reach. Usually when we give love, we will be loved in return. But even if we are not, genuine love for others is the source of happiness because it takes our mind off of our own sorrows, and connects us to all that matters most.  I wish you a life of love!

28 Comments

  1. Mike Bertoglio

    Have not heard of this movie,’ Marvin’s Room.’
    Recommended? Yes I love my plants.
    Mb

    • I do recommend it. As with a couple of other older movies (Regarding Henry with Harrison Ford and The Doctor with William Hurt) this is one that really is an eye-opener. It’s not so much that they have anything particularly unusual to say, it’s just that they focus our minds on topics — such as our own mortality and the implications thereof — that we might tend to avoid but would do well to consider. Jeff and I love our plants too. He’s much more disciplined about taking care of them, but I think I enjoy them more. As with a beloved pet who grows old, it’s always hard when a plant we’ve tended for years on end shows signs of having reached the end of its life. We have a couple at that stage now and we never seem to get around to replacing them! They are hanging on but look rather raggedy.

  2. I feel the same Julia. Love is good for mind and body. The health of our emotions are so intrinsically tied to our physical being. When faced with an emotional crisis that involves loved ones it’s easy to get physically unhealthy. I don’t feel like eating and can’t sleep, both very hard on you physically. It’s very hard to think of having no one to show love too. I’ve seen a program on inmates being paired up with a future service dog. They got the dogs as a puppy and did all the work with the dog until the dog was given to the grateful recipients. These dogs changed the inmates life. Gave them something to live for, showed them humanity. It seemed like magic, the changes in their emotional health. But of course it’s not magic, it’s just the joy of feeling love for something, someone.

    • I think I read the same (or a similar) story of the dogs and the inmates. It was wonderful and such a brilliant plan; everyone wins! Also I think there was someplace where a city took an old hospital or some such building and turned it into an animal rescue and staffed it with inmates. It’s also becoming popular to have public libraries bring in therapy dogs or even just people’s pets, pair them up with young readers, and allow the children to practice reading aloud to the dogs, who are just happy to be there and don’t intimidate or criticize the kids who are struggling. I’ve mentioned here before about the research showing that looking at personal photos is therapeutic. I think that’s because it invokes those feelings of love that always lift our spirits.

      • I think those are just awesome programs. I remember being really intimidated to read aloud in front of the class. If we can show or teach men and women who’ve made mistakes, compassion and love, they’ll might have a better chance of changing their lives once the get out. What better way than caring for an animal? I love that.

        • Our church is involved in a substance abuse recovery class in the (maximum security) jail in Newport News, and I used to tag along with the amazing friend of mine who taught the class. Just going into the jail was scary at first, hearing all those heavy doors clanging shut behind us and wondering what it would be like to know I couldn’t leave. I loved being with those women. They have had pretty much everything stripped away from their lives and are so real and open, and almost all the ones I came into contact with were eager to love and give as much as they could. It was a difficult time in my life and their prayers for us were so sincere and full of faith. I have such respect for the many people who reach out to those who are incarcerated, and I’m overjoyed to think of how much happiness these animals will give them, AND how much love the inmates will give back to the animals. Hopefully some of them will be able to afford a pet when they get out. They have such an uphill battle in the best of circumstances.

    • What a great story, Boomdee. I’ve never heard that one. Oh, the power of love for an animal is tremendous. Love that.

      • I really do think that animals give us so many unique gifts that we can’t find anywhere else. That’s why I just fell in love with this quote from Dostoevsky, and just had to use it in a post!

      • Thanks hon, don’t we know their hearts well, our furry little friends? They’ll go to the end of the earth and back just to be with you. That’s pure love. xo

  3. MaryAnn

    What a great post, especially from the lady who KNOWS how to love people!
    I love you!

    • That goes double for you, lady!!! Thanks for being here!

  4. Julia, you have an amazing collection of beautiful travel shots. I love this one, too.

    I agree with every word. Loving animals, plants, children certainly, and dear friends are what make the world a wonderful place. In many ways, a lot of money and fame rob you of the chance to find true love.

    • Alys, that’s so true, isn’t it? My impression is that people who have lots of wealth are encumbered in ways that leave them with little time for even noticing other people’s lives, much less becoming part of them. And when we don’t have time for people, how can we have time for plants and animals too? None of which I would want to live without! I’ve read in several places of research that has found that people need enough money to live comfortably (with all the basics) but beyond that, more money does not bring more happiness. Thanks so much for your kind words about my photos; I’m glad to finally have some use for them after taking so many thousands all these years! I appreciate your visits here!

      • Have you ever been curious about the phrase, “taking a picture”? Perhaps, in translation to native American tongues, it was that syntax that caused their reticence to have portraits “taken”. You don’t see any young photos of Sitting Bull (I am inferring the portraiture with which we are all familiar came after Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show transformed him.) Would not Gardner or Bradley loved to have captured Crazy Horse on film?

        • I would love to see films of our Chiricahua ancestors on horseback. It’s been said that “once they moved like the wind.” It’s interesting that many cultures have strong ideas about photography. At the health care meeting I held in my home prior to the White House summit in 2009, when we went to make a group photo, one woman would not be photographed because of her cultural tradition that disallowed photography during recent bereavement. This was a person of Caribbean ancestry. I would like to have heard the details about that tradition. I will always feel guilty for “taking” a photo of some Amish people I interviewed as part of a college project in 1974. They had specifically asked me not to photograph them, but I did take a few photos from what I thought was a safe distance, and they definitely did not like it. In that case, I was literally “taking” something without permission. Although the actual derivation of the phrase is probably akin to that of “taking measurements” or “taking your temperature.”

      • I’ve read something similar to that, too. We see that played out time and again in the media as well.

        Basic comforts (moving form poverty to a comfortable living) are key, but beyond that, not so much.

        I’m glad you started a blog for all your thoughts, words, and pics! Kismet

  5. Sheila

    Julia, the many comments and your beautiful blog certainly are as bright as your marketplace photo. I’m sure I’ll read it again; it touched my heart. You are such a loving person and have a wonderful way of sharing. My prayer tonight was for strength and healing for Jeff in the upcoming weeks. Love crosses the miles tonight, Sheila

    • Thank you Sheila! I always look forward to hearing from you. Your words brighten my day. Thanks so much for your friendship, and for being here so faithfully!

  6. maggie clure

    Excellent post today, Julia!! I pray and strive to love others, even those who seem “unlovable”! Your photos are always so amazing!! Continued prayers for Jeff, Matt and you!! May you have a wonderfully blessed week!

    • Thank you Maggie. It makes me very happy when people enjoy the posts. I appreciate your visits here, your kind thoughts and especially the prayers! Hope your week is full of blessings too!

  7. I would “love” to be in Sorento right now buying up some of that produce. I ‘loved” Italy so much. The people and the weather were so warm. My sister is several years older than I and when she started dating my mother bought a tape for her in a Bible book store. It was called the “The Comedy of Love” by Dr. Herb True. Between us we wore that tape out. Dr. True hit on all the points of what love is and is not. The thing that has stayed with me most is that love is not meant to be momentary or wasted. I pray I have loved for the right reasons and in the proper seasons. I love you my friend. Thanks for this.

    • You’re welcome, Amy! We will just have to put Italy on our list of things to do next time we cross the pond to see HM. I fell in love with Italy too, and even picked up a few words of the language. Not all that different from French in some respects. I’ve heard the billeting near Venice is super nice and VERY affordable. I’ve been trying to get Jeff to try it out but he likes to have reservations and plans for everything, no playing by ear for him! So maybe we can take a hop together now that spouses can travel unaccompanied. I think you are one of the most loving people I have ever known! I thank God for bringing our families together all those years ago. Love you too!

  8. Dear Julia,

    What a beautiful, true message. Yes, love truly is within reach of anyone and it is the source of true happiness. Anyone who’s done it can attest to that.

    It’s true also that there’s a selfish type of “love” in which people are more attached to getting than they are to giving, like the fan stalking their superstar, or a girl becoming obsessive and grabby with her boyfriend. I’ve seen it in everyone and done it myself.

    But there is a greater love that has only the Beloved’s best interest in mind, that truly makes our hearts sing and fills us with joy. Like the girl said in the movie “I’ve been so lucky to have two people in my life to love so much.” When we love, we get to find out who we are much more — I’ve experienced that — and we get to feel God much more, too. Not that that’s why we do it, but it’s a perk!

    Thanks for the great post,

    Dirk

    • Thank you, Dirk! Unfortunately, the joy of giving that selfless type of love, or even a lesser gift, is something of a well-kept secret, and even those who have experienced it run into their own limitations (time, resources, exhaustion) that sometimes sabotage their efforts. This time of year is when I feel most strongly the joy of giving, because I have so much more fun buying, wrapping and giving little gifts than I do receiving them. Really! I think many people can identify with that. It’s especially fun to give to the givers – people who are not looking for it. I also know that giving money to church, charities and other worthwhile things is contagiously fun (actually FUN, not “rewarding” or any of those noble sounding things), and the more anonymously you do it, the more fun it gets. But you can’t try to convince people of that without sounding smug or self-righteous. It’s the sort of thing that has to be experienced. But it’s the reason why Dicken’s Christmas Carol is a favorite production every year in every place we have lived. Thanks for visiting here, and for giving us your words of encouragement!

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