Love in Action
By E. Adam Porter
The local drugstore, grocer, coffee shop, and retail stores greet me with a phalanx of pink, red, and chocolate. Must be February. The month we tip our hats and open our wallets to celebrate St. Valentine and his cherubic partner in crime, Cupid. Fine and good. My bride deserves the flowers anyway, no matter what the calendar says.
Then again, when I sort through the submissions and edit the stories sent in to The News every month, I’m reminded that love is in action year-round. And not just the kind represented by Cupid and his Greek twin, Eros. A different kind of love, described in the New Testament using two Greek words: phileo and agape.
Phileo describes an affection motivated by kinship and friendship. It is the love that bonds us together in community, the knowledge that ‘Help Is Out There’ when we need it, because we will ‘Be There’ for our neighbors in their time of need. It was with specific intent that one of the greatest cities in our nation was christened with this word. Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. William Penn wanted the world to know his city was a place where people could live and worship freely, a fitting foreshadowing of the decisions that would be made and documents that would be signed there.
Agape is one of the most priceless gifts in human experience: unconditional love. It’s the love that says, “Whoever you are, whatever you need, it’s yours, and I ask nothing in return.” It has also been used to describe sacrificial love, the love we have for those we have lost, and appreciation for those who have sacrificed for others. It is found in the famous maxim from the gospel of John, which has become part of the fabric of our culture: “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” That “greater love” is unconditional.
As I read and edit the submissions and articles sent in to The News every month, one of my favorite aspects of the work is seeing all the ways folks in this community are actively living out love for each other. Page after page, phileo and agape are on full display.
Just in this issue…
We see the Community Foundation and the Mary Petro Fund helping people in need. The volunteers at Our Lady’s Pantry and five other food pantries feeding the hungry. Members of The Potter’s Wheel Club making bowls that will help feed hungry children; and The Rotary Club and The Lions Club donating food to various pantries around town.
The Woman’s Club bringing joy to local children for Christmas; grief support groups that offer comradery, a hot meal, and escape from being alone; and the University Women and veterans groups helping promising students pay for college.
There’s Beth Israel informing and empowering people stuck in abusive relationships; Mary Martha House providing support services to homeless women, victims of domestic violence, and their dependent children; and My Warrior’s Place offering comfort to veterans, military service members, first responders, and their families in need of a place to get away, reflect, and heal.
And we see volunteers at the Emergency Squad, Security Patrol, Samaritan’s Services, Meals on Wheels, and other organizations protecting the life, health, and safety of people in this community; and Stop the Bleed kits being distributed to facilities around town that will, literally, save lives.
The Southshore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging is working with those struggling with age-related illness and educating and supporting the caregivers who love them; and The Shriners are raising money so some kid they never met can learn to walk again. I know, because, decades ago, I was that kid. And I have never forgotten that gift.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are a great many more ways we can see love in action in Sun City Center and South Hillsborough County. We will cover many of those stories in the coming months, because, despite what you see pretty much everywhere else in the media, there really is no shortage of good news out there that needs to be reported.
Each of these acts of love only happen because people have embraced the spirits of brotherly love and unconditional love. Because they choose to give their time, strength, and money to love others.
So, this year…
When the omnipresent red and pink monuments to consumer love threaten to engulf me, I will look past them to see people answering emergency calls, handing out bread, sharing each other’s grief, and sitting in silence, holding hands with strangers, because they understand.
I will look for the child sharing a candy bar with his brother, even though they just slugged it out at the park. The woman buying groceries for the exhausted new mom who forgot her debit card at home but still needs those diapers. I will see the man carrying flowers for his wife of 30 years, even though they just had a fight, because even when she drives him crazy, he loves her. And I will see his wife, at home, preparing that knucklehead’s favorite meal.
I will stop a moment and appreciate the mom bending down on tired knees to tie a toddler’s shoe for the millionth time, and I will remember to call my own mom to thank her for all she did for me back when tying my shoes was a mystery I just couldn’t solve. I will see the medical teams and first responders leaving their own families to take care of strangers; and I will see the teachers staying late to help that kid everyone else has given up on.
I will visit the new veterans memorial and shake the hand of a hero who insists he was ‘Just Doing His Job’. I will weep with a Gold Star mother who will never forget the feeling of that folded American flag. And I will see a grandmother at the post office mailing cookies and duct tape to her grandson in Afghanistan, clutching that package to her chest and wishing she could reach halfway around the world to hug him instead. And I will sit with a father who lost his daughter to drugs or depression, who knows he’s not at fault but still blames himself. Because he could have done something.
I will look for these people and try to be that hand, that shoulder, and that answer. Because we all have hopes. We all have dreams… We all have regrets and sorrow, pain and need.
That’s why it’s so good to see love in action.