In all the years that I knew her, however, I don’t remember her ever telling me that she loved me. While she was alive, I told her all the time. I’m disgustingly affectionate! I know, I make my own self sick sometimes!
But, I don’t think Aunt Doris ever once actually told me with her lips that she loved me.
Yet, I knew she did.
She was one of those people — straightforward, a little gruff and abrupt around the edges. I often took great pleasure in tormenting her with my shenanigans and practical jokes. I loved getting a rise out of her! She was not to be trifled with and she did not suffer any foolishness, but she did laugh at my silliness.
When I was growing up, my siblings and I called her Elle Excellente – because to her, if it wasn’t excellent, what was the point?
When I was in high school, I brought home a report card that had both A’s and B’s. My mom was, of course, excited and supportive. My Aunt Doris was, of course, devastated and disappointed.
I never will forget the look on My Aunt Doris’ face: you can do better. The truth of the matter was, she was right. I could have done better.
Everything Aunt Doris did for me spoke volumes about how she cared about me. My family had no money, and my mother worked all the time. Still, there was not enough to go around. Yet, somehow when it came time for me to go to college — to be the first one to go off to college — my Aunt Doris pressed a plane ticket into my hand and enough to cover my living expenses for a few months. Every time after that, when it was time to come home for a break and when it was time to go back to school, she would press a plane ticket into my hand and enough money to make it through.
This woman who never finished high school and who survived on disability and social security made it possible for me to get an education. She didn’t talk about it, she just did it. God forbid if I tried to “thank her” for it. She was having none of that. Thanks was in the grades. Thanks was in the accomplishments. Thanks, she said, was in doing something with my life.
What does love look like?
Love looks like Aunt Doris.
You know what? No matter what we look like right now, we all have it within us to look like love, too.
Find a young person who needs some unconditional love.
Show up for them and cheer them on. When they fail, extend your hand to lift them up. When they say, “I can’t” — act like you have plumb lost your mind and threaten to “whop” ’em! (Okay….don’t really hit them….you can’t do that. But you get my point! Don’t suffer defeatist attitudes! Do whatever you have to do to get that young person to just take a chance on themselves.)
With lots of humor, a little sacrifice, a loving presence, boundaries, high expectations, perspective — and God, you really can press love into a young person’s heart.
The thanks will be in what they do with their lives.
“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love,
by our love…
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”