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Love Extravagantly

Posted on March 20th, 2008 by Will Marre.
Categories: Education, Community, Relationships.

I just finished reading one of the most inspirational books of my life. It’s called The Power of Serving Others: You Can Start Where You Are by Gary Morsch, M.D and Dean Nilson.

The book is Gary Morsch’s first person account of starting Heart to Heart, a global medical relief and rescue organization that are the first responders to hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and war refugee victims anywhere in the world. They also conduct educational clinics in remote, impoverished parts of the planet. The organization is extraordinarily effective. In the past 15 years it has delivered nearly $500 million in medical supplies and has provided thousands of medical volunteers in over 100 countries and across America. Dr. Morsch has also served as a volunteer for Mother Teresa in Calcutta and a combat doctor in Kosovo and the current Iraq war!

Dr. Morsch is simply a people-serving maniac. What he has accomplished is the result of simply responding to dire human need with wise ferocity and fearless commitment.

His message is, “If you want to make the world better, start now. Today. Right were you are. Just do something.” Most of us are waiting for a better time to volunteer or respond to needs. Most of us, including me, suffer from limp compassion. We feel others’ pain but we’re not ready to inconvenience ourselves. But the loss is ours. Helping, serving, loving others makes us clinically happier. It elevates our moods, fills us with gratitude, and sparks creativity. And most importantly can increase the quality of our personal love.

Two days ago I was speaking with a close friend who lives in Boston. He and his wife have a big empty house because their children are away at college. So his wife has started taking in guests. They are mostly foreign students who are trying to renew their visas but are confused by our bureaucracy. They are poor, far from home, lonely and scared. I asked my friend how it was and he said candidly, “Difficult, we’re learning a lot about living with strangers in our home. Strangers from different cultures with different hygiene habits and awkward communication. But,” he said, “we are learning to love extravagantly.”

It got me thinking. Loving is a lot like building muscle strength. It’s easy to love the lovable. Little resistance, little growth. But our capacity to love grows when we’re loving “in spite of.” In spite of the fact it’s inconvenient, in spite of the fact the person isn’t appreciative, in spite of the fact the person isn’t deserving. That requires pressing against real emotional weight. That builds love muscles.

Here’s how I see it. Heart to Heart isn’t just a rescue mission for disaster victims. Heart to Heart is a way of thinking. It’s the rescue mission of our daily lives. Most of us are too busy, too stressed, and too scared to do what our hearts have been telling us we should do for a long time. All of us have family members who are selfish, thoughtless and often cruel. All of us work with some people who are mean, back-biting jerks. All of us have been betrayed by friends, or even spouses. All of us are carrying the scars and wounds of deep disappointment. And all of us can heal by loving more extravagantly.

With those whom you trust, love with all your might. Be fully present, fully authentic, fully vulnerable. Enjoy planned, positive experiences together. Go for walks, rides, picnics, concerts, sports events, take classes; talk of your hopes, fears and desires. Fill your souls with each other. This may be a friend, children, a parent, or if you are fortunate, a spouse.

With those whom you love but do not trust, be cordial. Be respectful. Affirm what is good. Help them in practical ways when they don’t deserve it. But don’t be intimate with all your thoughts and feelings. That’s like offering drugs to an addict. Bullies and manipulators use vulnerability to hurt others and destroy themselves. Love powerfully but wisely.

Pray/meditate for your enemies. Yes, there may be people who seem to hate you. People who are jealous, resentful or just plain mean. Either pray, or if you don’t pray, meditate with positive intentions for them to be blessed to let go of their hatred and to have all the good things that you desire for your life to also be theirs. Pray/meditate for them to forgive you even if you’re doing nothing wrong. Also, forgive yourself of all your past mistakes. Your life has brought you to this point of wisdom. Be grateful for your wisdom and the silver lining of your painful experiences.

Finally, returning to the inspiration of Dr. Morsch, we would all be better if we would turn the whispering of our heartfelt compassion into action. We do not need to have fear about being wise about our compassion or even be effective at first. It’s in the doing that we become wise and effective. Imagine what our world would be like if we just acted on our noble voice. Volunteer. Relieve the pain in others you most feel in yourself.

It’s time to Spring Forward.

Will Marre, Founder
The American Dream Project

2 comments.

Marcia
Comment on March 21st, 2008.

I’m out of words to express how meaningful these words have been to me and my loved ones. Keep up the the powerful words.

Thomas
Comment on March 21st, 2008.

A friend recently asked me to talk to his teenage son who was drifting away from his studies and getting into friendships that deeply troubled him. I felt somewhat awkward to advice another man’s son when I have a teenage son that I sometimes worry about. Also I felt since I am not a counselor or a psychologist, I would be the least qualified to provide any professional advice.

Today I accidentally ran into my friend’s son after church service and had the opportunity to talk to him. We spent about 30 minutes talking, listening and laughing about school, friends and professions. As we walked out my friend saw us and I could see his eyes were filled and he said a quiet Thank You to me. I am not really sure what I did would help his son but my friend’s eyes tell me I may have.

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