“What if there is a kind of power that everyone has, and it’s power that not is not destructive or coercive, and once it’s applied, only gets stronger and will multiply itself?”
Here’s part of the answer: unconditional love.
What I mean by unconditional is actually self-explanatory. To me, unconditional love means, I will love you, no matter what. You don’t need to do anything more than keep being yourself, and I will keep loving you. There are no conditions or requirements. It’s not about peripheral issues like, I will love you IF you buy me this car or any of the nonsense we sometimes get caught up in.
Nicole was a daddy’s girl; all she ever really wanted was a dad. All she ever asked me for was to spend time with her. I was more than happy to do that, since every minute we spent together was quality time. People tell me how lucky she was to have me, but the truth is that I was also lucky to have her.
Nicole made me a better man, since I swore I would never hurt her or let her down: I always had to be as good as she thought I was. Not doing my best was unthinkable.
I learned a lot of lessons about unconditional love from Nicole, like the time I was unemployed and couldn’t always afford to do all the things I wanted to do for her. But it didn’t matter to her, since she loved me for myself. Nicole’s unwavering faith in me when I didn’t have faith in myself kept me going through some otherwise dark days.
Here is an example of Nicole’s unconditional love and how it impacted my life for the better.
There was a time that someone tried to worm his way into Nicole’s and her mom’s life by giving her a laptop computer. Nicole, at her young age, saw right through the attempt; “He’s just trying to buy me,” she told me. And she wanted me to have the laptop after she tried to return it.
Laptop computers were still prohibitively expensive in those days for someone of my limited means, and she really insisted that I should have it. She didn’t do it because she wanted anything from me; she did it because she loved me, and because she could. Nothing more. So I took it with Nicole’s blessing.
The internet in those days wasn’t like it is now. There wasn’t broadband yet, so to get on the internet you needed a slow, dial-up connection. I had never been on the internet before, but it didn’t take long for me to find my way.
Anyway, after a little while, I sent an email to a website I liked, and struck up a sporadic email exchange with the owner of the site. He eventually asked me to write a column for his site, and I agreed. It was an immediate hit, and led to my soon becoming an actual, legitimate print journalist and a professional writer. A lot of the writing I did that earned me awards and professional recognition was done on that computer.
If Nicole hadn’t wanted to give me a computer, maybe I’d have gotten into writing eventually. I doubt it, though. It was that specific chain of events that set it all in motion, and likely wouldn’t have happened if not for the generosity of a young girl that loved me unconditionally. But for the love of the most beautiful little girl on earth and her unconditional love, you probably wouldn’t have ever heard of me or be reading my words.
She reminds me that I also got some things going in her life, too; unconditional love is one kind of power that spreads and grows, and it costs nothing. Just be sincere when you use it, and use it indiscriminately.
You don’t even have to know the person on the other end; there is no reason why strangers can’t benefit from unconditional love through random acts of kindness.
If you love life, and you love people, there is nothing preventing you from performing random, life-affirming acts that will kindle the better angels of our nature. It can take many forms: if the woman ahead of you in line is a few dollars short–give her the money she needs, for example. Imagine the boost to her day and to her spirit because someone she didn’t know stepped in to do something positive for her. Don’t do nice things to win points or so someone will owe you something you can hold over their head; do nice things just because you can.
I started thinking about this when I used to do a lot of hitchhiking as a college student. There were a lot of times when I expressed my gratitude for the ride and was told that if I wanted to pay that person back, just do a kindness for someone in the future; maybe it would get back to them. I’ve since heard variations on that theme, wrapped up in the phrase, pay it forward.
Just imagine if we spent more of our time paying back past acts of kindness in this way, indiscriminately. What if we all used our power by doing someone an unexpected kindness? What if we bought flowers for our caregiver unexpectedly, or volunteered to watch the kids for an afternoon or evening so she or he can go out and have a good time with friends?
You get the idea. This is a kind of power that grows and blossoms and keeps on going and inspiring new acts of kindness.
And just imagine the kind of power we could have if we all loved ourselves unconditionally. That would be an awesome use of the power we already have, if we would just use it.
But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t bring up the other side of giving; namely that, in order for someone to be a giver, it’s necessary for someone to be on the receiving end.
Sometimes, out of what we may feel is consideration for a loved one or a caregiver (and the two are not mutually exclusive), we turn down their heartfelt desire to help us. I know that I’m guilty of it. A great number of people, some who I don’t know, have reached out a helping hand to me, only to be turned away. I try not to be rude about it, telling them things like, “Well, thanks, but I really have to do this myself.” I’m sure we’ve all done it at some time.
But I hope you will consider this: sometimes when we refuse help, we actually ARE taking something from the other person. We can take away their opportunity to do something truly helpful, and something from which they can take comfort in, knowing they did something positive to make our existence easier.
And when we do that, we may be breaking the chain of unconditional love. When we accept a helping hand, we may actually also be helping to keep that chain that was forged out of links started by someone who committed an act of unconditional giving motivated by their unconditional love. I think that more often we should accept that the other person is only trying to help, and recognize their help as an act of love.
Let me end by saying I love you, Nicole, and I always will, no matter what. I can’t imagine how my life would have turned out without you and your love in it.
Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.