I find myself thinking about love lately in the manner of sacrifice, tolerance and commitment. With so much to unpack in life every day, it’s easy to lose “that loving feeling” (Righteous Brothers, 1964) about our community at large.

But what is love anyway? Is it love that made me come to this community, in order to leave for greener grasses, and then come back and fall in love with it again? Is it love that makes me care about this community? Is it love that makes me care about what other people experience in this community whether it be good or bad?

We are bombarded by issues that not only affect our local community but our nation in general. Present life in our communities can be at times like rolling around in a ball pit, and we are the children. It looks fun although each ball is a community or societal issue that needs dealing with. We roll around in it, unsuspecting the piss and bacteria lurking on those balls (issues), ready to infect us with a common cold and derail plans for the week or the month. For now, that ball pit looks interesting and tempting to dive into and just roll around in, having fun, not thinking about the perils of being oblivious.

What then do you do with so many world and community issues that each of them are like these balls in a ball pit? How do you begin to participate in cleaning some of this up? I spoke to a friend recently who used to live in Portland, Oregon. Portland went through a period where the homelessness issues, drug issues, mental illness, and crime spilled over into the streets so much that what was once a peaceful and balanced community became increasingly threatening and dystopian.

So many former Portlanders had moved away because of this, lamenting the past glory of Portland. In her recent visit, she reported back how much positive change has occurred because people who love and care about Portland began to turn their love into action to save the city. The result is that Portland is on the mend after many watching its demise thought this was how it was going to end for their beloved city. This turn-around happened because of love; love of community, to be exact.

When all your strategies and motivation don’t inspire a call to action in communities or in the world in general, let your love swell to motivate us and others. Love causes us to find a “cause.” Love causes us to be deliberate and mindful, and care about positive outcomes in our communities. Applying love to the things we think about and do is like that missing ingredient Grandma taught you to put into your baking recipe. The cornbread tastes “off” because it’s missing sugar. A simple oversight.

As so many balls in the ball pits exist, I am finding that the only thing that can motivate me to care is good old-fashioned love. Love is patient. Love is kind.

According to the Bible, “The greatest of these is love.”

EL Serumaga is a resident of River Forest.

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