Today is Valentine’s Day. And yet, talking about love feels trite right now.
It’s been just hours since the U.S.’s 29th mass shooting and the 12th school shooting of 2018. All while I get to look into the blooms of a dozen roses and wonder what I did to deserve the drawing of the metaphoric card this morning that said, “You get to live another day.”
Earlier this week, I wrote about filmmaker and activist Valarie Kaur’s TED Talk: 3 Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage. (If you’re not familiar with it, I invite you to watch Ms. Kaur’s speech — it may be one of the most powerful talks you’ll ever see.)
She spoke of her innocent family friend who was gunned down in a hateful act of violence, shot outside his business by a white man with a vendetta against brown people. This was a racist act of rage, but an act of rage nonetheless, not unlike today’s tragedy.
Today, however, the lessons of which she spoke — lessons of revolutionary love — are especially difficult for me to grasp, let alone practice. In the aftermath of tragedy, the definition of love seems more complex somehow, particularly when in the midst of its stepbrothers: loss, grief, and, yes, rage. Any act of reclaiming love feels impossible.
But in my most feeble act of resistance against rage, I’m going to try.
Today, this is what reclaiming love looks like to me.
It looks less like obligatory gifts and more like heartfelt expressions of commitment and affection. It’s arguing less over trivialities and instead appreciating the people who have stuck around (so you can argue with them in the first place). It’s less expectation, more intent. It’s holding our loved ones close and being thankful for yet another day. And it looks like forgiveness and grace in the face of rage.
There are many practical, big-picture ways to give and receive love — which don’t involve buying guilt-induced presents, feeding the corporate machine, or denying the hatred and rage that exist in this world. Here are a few acts of love to consider.
Send a girl to school for a year.
For $58, the International Rescue Committee is able to send a young woman to school for a year — providing her with tuition, books, supplies, and a chance for a better life. Learn more about the program here.
Leave a message of love for a survivor of abuse.
Notes: Messages of Love and Hope is an opportunity to share words of support with abuse survivors via either an online submission form or at one of the typewriters the program will place at locations around the U.S.
Speak up. Get involved.
Using our voices to speak out against injustice is one of the most impactful expressions of our love for humanity. Learn about sham legislation that corrupt politicians are trying to pass — while they assume hapless community members will look the other way. Write letters to your legislators, or better yet, call their offices — show them they will be held accountable for decisions they make while in public office. Learn more about the incredible work Moms Demand Action is doing in our communities to protect all of us from gun violence. And, for the love of our children, stop saying it’s not the right time to have difficult conversations.
Join the #LoveArmy.
For Valentine’s Day, Valarie Kaur (mentioned at the outset) put out a call to action on behalf of the Revolutionary Love Project: share stories via social media about how each of us plans to #ReclaimLove as a force for social justice. You’re invited to use the hashtag and post your pictures, videos, music, stories, and art — anything that reinforces the message to “deepen our practice of the ethic of love — love for others, our opponents, and ourselves.”
As Kaur mentioned in her TED Talk, the act of revolutionary love is a choice. But it’s the most worthwhile choice we can make during times of darkness.
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends. And may you reclaim love while holding your own loved ones close.