Show and Tell

“I love you.”

Spiritual texts tell us that love is all around. We must show it, not tell it.

Even as a child, I wanted to be told. But, love, in the pragmatic world of poverty, extreme racism, and fear revealed itself as a practical thing, woven into the daily life of meals, clothes, and housing. During the summers we experienced love in visits to the south where hot days in the fields, riding the backs of cows, and filling buckets of clean, tasty water from an underground spring left us tired and happy. Eating freshly slaughtered chicken and meats, farm grown veggies and fruit— figs, grapes, and peaches were my favorites — left us feeling supremely cared for and nourished.

Those things were evidence of love, and for the adults in the world around me this evidence was proof enough. My father would say “show me, don’t tell me” and he was no hypocrite. He lived his life showing through baseball games, circuses, and rides on his back after Thanksgiving dinner.

I embraced the apparent truth that love was show, not tell.  And yet, as I grew into womanhood, I began yearning for the words. Perhaps it was because some of the folks that came into my life did not know how to show. They did not come from families of evidence.

In this world where I pray to see a do-nothing Congress get past the extraordinary racism buried in attacks against the president so that they can show some compassion for those who are less fortunate, I think that many of those people do not come from families of evidence. I want to be shown that they have an ounce of feeling for those without insurance, without food, and who have placed their lives on the line to defend them and now need support. Show me; stop the flapping lips.

But I’m getting off track.

Evidence, of course, is mixed. I also experienced evidence that love was far from our door. My mother was not one to exhibit as much as one millionth of an inch of sentimentality. Except for anger, which was constant, she kept her feelings sacredly locked within her until women came together to can fruit and vegetables, cook holiday meals, and talk about their husbands. Only once do I remember her exhibiting sorrow — it is the only day in my memory — and that was when my father pushed her to the floor. Show, don’t tell. The day remains in my mind like a photograph that cannot be destroyed.

Why, sometimes, do I want to hear the words?

I am blessed with a view of the campus park across the street. The leaves have dropped from the trees, and I have a full view of the trail that winds through the college. Parents with toddlers, dog lovers, boys holding girls, and boys holding boys; future track stars in heavy coats force their tired legs uphill. The setting sun presses fat fingered rays through empty branches, covering the brown shrubbery and happy hikers like dripping paint. It’s like a drawing that revals my memories of past walks in forests where I was shown, not told, about love.  Show me, I would insist, don’t tell me.

Yet.

I’m open to thoughts…

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