By Dayna Mason

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some, but for everyone

The song, “What the World Needs Now is Love,” co-written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David in 1965, was their answer to the controversy and disagreements among Americans about the Vietnam War.

Today, our disagreements may be different from those of the 1960s, but the lack of love extended to those we disagree with is the same. In a country of over 300 million people, we will always disagree. But we get to choose how we disagree. The reason Martin Luther King Jr.’s mission was so powerful, transformative and still moves us so deeply today is because it’s grounded in love. He believed that “unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”

Be the light

Last week, in the poem recited by Amanda Gorman at the presidential inauguration, we were reminded that “there is always light” and encouraged to not only “see the light” but to “be the light” during difficult times.

A story attributed to the author Leo Buscaglia is a beautiful example of being the light. A four-year-old lived next door to an elderly man who had just lost his wife. The boy saw the man crying and went into the man’s yard, climbed onto his lap and just sat there. When the boy’s mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”

Sometimes being the light is simply helping someone cry.

To be the light means to offer hope, encouragement, kindness and compassion to others in times of darkness. When times are awful to be the light is to illuminate—shine a light on—what is wonderful. At other times it means just being still, knowing that nothing really needs to be said or done, other than to be there for someone.

Lead with love

Fear drives the ego. Love drives life. Confidence, courage, hope—all love. Worry, pride, self-righteousness—all fear. Love drives all that matters in life.

In the words of John Lennon, “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. All hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

Our hope for a better America rests in those who make love a priority.

The pandemic and our political divide may be the catalyst for us to finally realize that love needs to be a priority in the leadership of our country and in the example we set for the world. By “love” I don’t mean the mushy let’s all hold hands and sing a sappy song kind of love. I’m talking about the selfless, unconditional kind. The kind of love that is other-oriented and sets aside differences to work together for a common good. The kind of love that makes a powerful positive impact on the world recognizing that all people have the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The kind of love demonstrated by both Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in a nonviolent approach to resolving our differences, by “avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”

This is love in leadership.

John F. Kennedy believed that an other-oriented attitude of cooperation was the answer to resolving our differences. “In a time of domestic crisis, men of goodwill and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics.”

This is love in leadership.

When our heart is in it—when we care more about people than being right—that is when it becomes possible to achieve those ridiculously remarkable results for our country that defy reason.

“We can move in [the] direction as a country, [of] greater polarization … filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King Jr. did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence …What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black [or Republican or Democrat]” – Robert F. Kennedy

When asked to define love, a four-year-old boy named Billy said, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

Let’s strive to be a light and lead with love by at least speaking in a way that the names of our fellow Americans are “safe in our mouths.”

 

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