The One and Only Priority That Matters in the End
We just celebrated a milestone birthday for my wife of nearly 38 years. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Really. Somehow when I say that in this day and age, with people my age who are jumping off ‘the marriage ship’, it’s kind of shocking, but we still sign off our anniversary and birthday notes with “one life is too short.‘
Sappy, I know, but what are you going to do if it’s so true?
This article isn’t about marriage but about love, and about what really matters in life. I’m sure there may be some push back but that’s okay. Last time I checked no one who was on their deathbed was checking their latest stock numbers, but rather, waiting for loved ones to be with them as their lives were winding down.
With Mother’s day behind us and Father’s day just ahead of us, I would like to encourage us to take some time to reflect on the one and only priority that matters in the end.
Back to my wife’s birthday, which by the way was celebrated on top of one of the world’s tallest standing structures, the Toronto CN Tower. With her family we circled in the restaurant around the city and poured our many expressions of love on a person we all know so well and love so much.
The highlight of the event was when our adult kids presented her with a ‘Love Jar’.
You ask, so what is a Love Jar? Actually I Googled it and I couldn’t find any one specific definition. A lot of images of Love Jars, but none like ‘our’ Love Jar. Our Love Jar was about our mom, my wife, our friend and daughter, and sister and colleague.
When out kids, now adults with their own children, were growing up we used a variety of analogies to explain to them what our home was. Among other things, we taught our boys that our home was to be a filling station. Yes, a filling station. Remember those? I’m sure some of our ETR readers are old enough, like me, to remember pulling up to a gas station or filling station as they were called, and waiting by the window until someone showed up with a happy face and said, “Fill ‘er up?” Those were the good old days.
Although there might be the occasional full service station, they are few and far between. Mostly we are into ‘self serve’ these days.
Although the Love Jar and filling station seem like opposites, they are actually very a like. There’s something empty that needs to be filled.
All of us have emotional tanks that need refueling. I have heard this analogy explained referring to how we should be treating our children, but never for adults. Coaching men and women for over 30 years now I have discovered that we too have emotional tanks that need filling.
And what is the fuel we all need – love. Love expressed in its many expressions. In the words of best selling author Gary Chapman we all have a variety of love languages we respond to. He identifies five — quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch and receiving gifts. Those are the Five Love Languages.
In those old filling stations, you would have welcoming, servant hearted attendants, happy to fill your tank to the full, no questions asked with a smile on their face.
What happened in those full service filling stations is what needs to be happening in our relationships today. And not just at home, but at work and in our communities.
Unfortunately I see this very little. It’s seen on occasion and people make a big deal about it when it’s evident, but what could we do as ETR readers to raise the value of love in our various contexts. What could we do to adopt this old model of refueling at a filling station, into our relationship world? What if we all arrived at the office, or the house or the team or company with the attitude, “ I wonder whose emotional tank I can fill today?” We would start a revolution of love.
We don’t have to wait for special occasions to send out Love Jars or fill tanks.
You can easily fill someone’s Love Jar today or tomorrow.
In my wife’s case, her jar was full. Here’s just a sampling from hundreds of comments from neighbors, family, friends, work colleagues and clients. Note the specificity of the comments. When you go to fill the Love Jars of the people in your lives, make sure you get specific and highlight character traits, attitudes and actions that speak to you of the value of this person you are loving on.
I love Rosetta’s loyalty and how I can trust her heart in engaging with her and sharing my deepest fears and challenges.
What I love about Rosetta is that she takes her job as the oldest sister seriously being the first to call when she hears of news, especially bad news, because she doesn’t shy away from talking about difficult things, even when others do.
I love Rosetta’s smile and loving welcome whenever she sees me.
Through your actions and words, you have taught me the true meaning of love, faith and forgiveness. I am eternally grateful to be able to call you ‘mom’.
One of the things I love about Rosetta is her kind heart and kind face—makes her a very pleasant person to be around.
Rosetta exudes God’s grace and stillness in an anxious world.
Although many of these comments focus on filling the love jar with words of affirmation there are other creative ways you can show your love.
You can refill the empty tanks of the people in your world by offering a look, a word and touch of love on a regular basis.
We underestimate what can be communicated with a look. We know looks can kill, but looks of love can replenish depleted fuel tanks in just moments. Making gentle eye-to-eye contact with people can have a healing impact.
After reading this essay, why not practice a loving look with someone in your life? Be prepared for them to be positively shocked!
A look of love can fill and refill empty tanks.
So can a touch of love.
A fifteen second embrace or longer can refill an empty tank. Even if you aren’t a touchy feely person you might want to try this one for a change. Let yourself go. Let yourself be touched and don’t be afraid to appropriately touch people in your life. There are many ways to fill a tank with a loving touch. Loving embraces, firm handshakes, touching on the shoulder, bear hugs between men, and so many other creative ways to fill a tank with a touch of love.
For those of you who have aging parents, you’ll never know what it means to a mom and dad to be hugged or touched by their adult child.
Recent studies have shown that fathers show physical affection 1/6th as often as mothers do. The results are evident in our society how our boys are suffering from a lack of appropriate affection from their dads.
All of us are older children or younger children, we are children of someone, you can easily fill your parents’ tanks or Love Jars with four little words—I love you Dad. I love you Mom.
Can you imagine how the whole atmosphere of a home or an office or a company or a team or significant other relationship would change if each person made an effort to say kind words instead of hurtful or sarcastic words?
So why not go fill someone’s Love Jar and fill tank or two this week.