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Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must have needs, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of your love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.

To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy,
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart
and a song of praise upon your lips.

— From “The Prophet,” by Khalil Gibran
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A few months ago, I was working with a few classes on the official development-manual recommended topic of “relationship skills” (using the broadest sense of the term to include all people in their lives, not just those with whom they may or may not have been involved in courtship.) Of course, I shaped and molded the topics to suit what I perceived the interest and needs of my particular class would be. We spent most of it talking about things like how to resist peer pressure, the importance of building self-esteem, identifying positive role models, and fighting stigma directed towards teen mothers/people with HIV/other common pariahs. But I love to do things to get the kids thinking creatively, rather than just taking notes or answering homework questions. One day, I asked the students to write a composition titled simply, “What is love?”

The students’ ages ranged from 12 to 19, so they’re just now starting to figure this out for themselves. It’s a difficult question, even for adults, so I gave them some additional prompts to get the cognitive juices flowing: Who are the people that we love? Why? We often love people in different ways (friends, family, church members, boyfriends/girlfriends, etc) – what are some of the different types of love? What are some appropriate ways we can show our love? How do YOU want to be loved?

As expected, the answers I got were a blend of bizarre, funny, insightful, and heartfelt. In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, I’m going to share some excerpts from their responses with you.

“Love is made of people and places. Love is a warm feeling. Love is singing and dancing and swimming in the ocean and then lying on the sand feeling good about everything.”

“He who loves has few troubles.”

“I want to be a pupil of love all of my life.”

“To love is to be suitable. For example, jeans and a t-shirt are not suitable for a job interview.”

“I love myself because only GOD made me and what He made was good.”

“Of all the people, I love my teachers the best! Especially Madam Eliza [my Kenyan co-facilitator] and Madam Megan. I want to be like Madam Megan some day. You can look at her and know that she is loved by the many people in her life.” (Awwwwww …)

“There are many different kinds of love. It all depends on the country where you were born.”

“Love without action is like tea without sugar: only bitterness.”

“Life without love is the same as death.”

“One day we were in the market and my parents gave me a uniform and pencils and said I was going to school. This is how I know I am loved very much.”

“Love is the biggest kind of honesty in the world.”

“Love is the way we make good things even more good.”

“Love is a very strong good feeling you have about someone or something. For example, I would LOVE to go to America!”

“Love is like God following you around with a present.”

“We show love by celebrating goodness together.”

Of course, the entire time I was reading their compositions – as well as the entire time I was typing this blog entry – I had one particular song stuck in my head. So I’ll just leave this here. Please enjoy.

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