In the musical “Moulin Rouge,” one of the title characters recites a phrase that has stuck with me ever since I first saw the show.  “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” The line states that there is no greater lesson or concept we will ever learn than loving and being loved in return.  As I age, the call to love others is not necessarily easier, but maybe more of a way of life. I have long held the philosophy that all people have a basic need, “to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved.” That, at the bottom of every misunderstanding or fight, is the need for someone to see us, hear us, and love us. This means that even when I disagree with the person, I am called to see, hear, and love them. I don’t have to analyze the ultimate worth of a person in order to love them. That, for me, is a daily lesson in humility.

The second part of the line, to be loved in return.”  can be hard, really hard.  As I sit here, pondering that concept, Oliver, my pug, just looked at me with the squinty-eyed “I love you mom,” look, sighed, and placed his head on my knee.  He is secure knowing that he is cared for and safe. I smile because for him, loving me unconditionally IS that easy.  He is an example of the complete and unconditional love a Creator has for each of us-no matter the situation. I don’t have to do a thing for this creature to love me, I have only to embrace it, free of the limits that my mind would place on it. That is the call of the second half of the line. To be loved in return is a gift, a glorious gift, that, when we let it penetrate our analytical veneers brings an outpouring for understanding others. A hug, an invitation to coffee, a guided direction, or an inquiring question are given as an example of incredible love. Just as all people are worthy of being loved, we too, are worthy of receiving love.

There it is, wrapped in the month of candy hearts, smooshy hallmark cards and our recent Valentine’s Day boxes … a call to embrace others and let them embrace us – unconditionally. Today, I can lean into that.

Cindy Heidelberger Larson is a Chaplain at Sanford Hospital.

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