Last Sunday, my pastor’s homily focused on the Bible passage about loving thy neighbor. She noted that the word “love” in this passage was not about the feeling of love but about the action of love. When someone cuts you off in traffic or is disrespectful, you probably would not think of them in terms of love but the point she was making is that we can all treat that person with love by treating them with respect and dignity.
I found this line of thinking interesting. As I read the paper later in the day, I came upon a story about Rachel Held Evans. Ms. Evans was an American Christian columnist and author whose “work offered a home for a diaspora of believers wrestling with evangelical Christianity, a community yearning to seek God, find safety amid doubt, and include those whom the churches of their youth had rejected.” She died two years ago very unexpectedly and left behind an unfinished manuscript. Her husband asked her friend and fellow author Jeff Chu to complete the book. The article was an interview with her husband and Mr. Chu about the journey to complete her final story.
The interviewer, Elizabeth Dias, asked Mr. Chu about his emotions in taking on this project and his answer was why I’m writing about this topic today. He said “But this is the thing about friendship — I don’t think that friendship is always just easy. Sometimes friendship is going to ask us to make sacrifices and take hard roads and do things that aren’t necessarily delightful or fun, because that’s what our friends need.” I think that this concept should be applied not just to friends but to spouses, partners, kids, neighbors and perhaps to how we deal with anyone we encounter. Helping others with what they need tied nicely together with the homily I heard earlier in the day.
For those who don’t want to think about the parts of relationships that aren’t fun, happy or delightful, consider changing your expectations. To paraphrase a quote I have heard many times, the key to happiness is to lower your expectations.
This week’s selection is:
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Set in Constantinople in the fifteenth century, in a small town in present-day Idaho, and on an interstellar ship decades from now, Anthony Doerr’s gorgeous third novel is a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope—and a book. In Cloud Cuckoo Land, Doerr has created a magnificent tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness—with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us, and with those who will be here after we’re gone.