By the time I came out of my meeting this evening, it was cold and dark outside. I couldn’t see any buses approaching so I decided to walk briskly to the next bus stop to warm myself up. Just before I reached the next stop, the bus went past, and I was annoyed with myself. I was now going to have to wait longer and get even colder.
A friend of mine describes delays as recalibration. Everything happens in a slightly different order from that point onwards. When things don’t go to plan, there is sometimes a better plan that you know nothing about. The catch is, it requires patience and awareness in order to notice the advantage or gift in an otherwise annoying situation.
Waiting at the bus stop you have three main choices: stare at the place the bus is approaching from and wish it would hurry up, stare at your phone, or take in your surroundings. This evening, I decided to distract myself from the cold and dark by watching what was going on in the street. It was interesting to see people passing by, what they were driving, what they were listening to, what they were carrying, what they were wearing.
A young man walked past the bus stop wearing a black hoody. It was printed with big rainbow-coloured letters on the front which said: BE THE LOVE YOU NEVER RECEIVED.
By now most of us have read the Gandhi quote, “Be the change you wish to see”. This was a new twist on that message and it struck me with some force. To be the change you have to be the love. Love is the motivation for the change you wish to see.
I wondered what this person had experienced to make him wear this hoodie, and I thought it was a brave move to wear such a thing in the street (as a young man of colour in a rough part of East London).
For anyone who has been denied love by anyone (and that would be most of us at some point in our lives) there’s a common experience that it’s easy to shrink, blame, build emotional walls and end up denying love to ourselves and others. It takes courage to be open, have faith, allow imperfection and to trust in our own ability to survive the unpredictability of human relationships.
Love is not a finite resource. You can generate it in unlimited amounts. However, psychology shows that people who have been denied love from an early age often struggle to establish lasting healthy relationships in adulthood. It’s difficult to give what you’ve never received. But the past is not a life sentence. Change is possible, if not alone then with some intervention. In this case the place to start is having enough self-love to ask for help, to give yourself the love you never received.
The only way to repair relationships or build new ones is by giving love in the first place, even if it’s not immediately reciprocated. This includes our relationship with our wounded self. It may be towards people who love us but are inhibited or afraid to show it. It also includes the responsibility to do better for the next generation than the previous one was able to do for us.
As the young man went past the bus stop I pondered on the gift of having missed the bus and gained his thought-provoking message. I wondered how best to apply that message in my own life.
My first answer is to provide support, personally and professionally, in ways that were not available to me when I was in a tough phase of my life. Being abandoned in a time of need tends to multiply the pain. I became determined to spare others that experience.
Secondly, I intend to take another look at the people who apparently let me down. Is there a chain of neglect? If they were not appropriately cared for perhaps they did not know how to respond to another person’s needs. Or perhaps they did not feel adequately equipped to deal with the situation. In this case I can supply the love that I did not receive and find a way to forgive them. It doesn’t change what happens back then, but it changes how we move on from here. My old pain is let go and there is an opportunity to relate differently now that I see their side. I can let them be flawed and allow them to love me back in their own imperfect way.
How glad I am that I missed the bus and noticed that passer-by. I will take the young man’s message to heart and share it as much as I can. They are words to live by and I truly believe they could save lives.
Be open to synchronicities and BE THE LOVE YOU NEVER RECEIVED.