I’ve always believed in the power of love. I’ve always known that it has the power to change people and to change the world. My whole life I’ve always been taught to love one another and to love my enemies. My nana was the one always teaching me lessons in such a witty or cleaver way.
My nana would always take me by the hand and tuck me in tight, just like she always did when I stayed the night. I looked at her and began singing “tell me a story, tell me a story, tell me a story before I go to bed. You promised you would, you said you would. You gotta give in so I’ll be good. Tell me a story before I go to bed!” So she told me the story of my great grandmother Mimi like she did a thousand times before.
She said “honey, love conquers all and don’t you ever forget it. Hate is easy baby, but love… now that’s a different story. It takes courage and strength.” She patted my hand and got that big smile like she always does. I can still smell her brown sugar and honey perfume. It was always intoxicating.
She began, “your great grandmother Mimi lived next door to the meanest old lady I’d ever seen. That old woman use to give poor Mimi dirty looks and make hateful comments every chance she got.” Nana always paused right there and the silence would swell up around us and it was cause for me to hold my breath just praying she’d continue.
She would say “Now Mimi would bake pies for the old woman and go out of her way just to say good morning, but it never did any good.”
“Nana, I wouldn’t have talked to her anymore!” I’d butt in.
“Well baby, just listen to the rest of the story and see what happens” Nana would say, giving my hand the gentlest squeeze.
“It wasn’t until the old woman’s dying day that the old woman gave our Mimi the slightest bit of acknowledgement. Mimi came to see the woman at the hospital and she looked Mimi in the eyes and said no one was ever nice to me except for you. She told her how much it meant to her and how she could never forget it. She thanked her with big sad tears in her eyes and said she was sorry. Mimi hugged her and told her she understood.”
I would smile at that. I would say, “Nana, I guess I understand.”
“Baby life isn’t easy and everybody won’t always be nice to you. Sometimes people will hurt your feelings and they will say hateful things, but you have to kill ‘em with kindness! Love is the only way.”
I would say, “Oh but Nana, it’s so hard! I don’t think I could ever do that…”
“Just love them like Jesus.”
Now in my child-like thinking, I still believed the world to be innocent. I still believed there was some good. When you grow up, you begin to see all the ugly things you were sheltered from as a child and love seems to be the furthest thing from your mind.
I can still remember one of the first times someone ever called me hateful names and was mean to me. I was in the third grade and I was playing outside by the swing sets. A little girl named Cheyenne who was two grades higher than I use to make my third grade year miserable. Every time I came around she told me just what she thought about me. Some days I would come home very upset and my mother would always ask me why.
Chey would always tell her friends not to play with me, but still I would pray for Chey every night before I went to bed. I tried to be nice to Chey or ignore her horrible comments, as much as a third grader possibly can, but the harder I tried, the harder she tried.
One day I was finally fed up and I had just about enough. I looked Chey in they eyes and said “Chey, I don’t care if you don’t like me and I don’t care if you don’t want to play with me, but I’m still going to keep being nice to you whether you like it or not!”
Cheyenne just stood there looking rather confused while chewing on her lower lip and twirling a curl around her finger. I couldn’t tell if she was thinking it over or if I had just added fuel to a forest fire. Chey slowly nodded her head and turned to walk away.
Now I wish I had a happy ending where Cheyenne and I became the best of friends, sadly I do not, but from that day forward we had reached some silent form of an agreement. We never talked or played together, but she always made sure no one ever picked on me while she was around.
Hate is definitely easy. Love takes courage and I truly believe it conquers all. I’ve seen things happen in my own life. Loving the person that hates me even though it’s hard was deeply imbedded into my mind from childhood.
I’ve been called names and I’ve been hurt, but with out love my life now wouldn’t be as rich. The key to love is forgiveness. Without forgiveness, love would be pretty hard to accomplish. This is what I believe and no one can change my mind.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.