Commentary: Love one another

Be a visionary and plant seeds of selflessness

By Troy Darden

Troy Darden

A lifetime ago, colleagues would come to my office to meet in close confines or for “fresh air” when they felt overwhelmed. During the last such session in my office, a colleague detailed her trip to her home country for her father’s burial. We ended that conversation as was our custom, with an embrace.

Customarily, I hug members of my faith family, including some who’ve transitioned since we last worshiped together. During my last in-person attendance at Whatcoat United Methodist Church (the servant church of Dover), a fellow worshiper and I air-hugged instead — you know, due to the ’rona. We both laughed, unaware what was lying ahead.

That was last March.

Nine months later, our congregation just celebrated the fourth Advent Sunday, led virtually by our pastor, the Rev. Dr. Turhan L. Potter Sr. Normally, Whatcoat’s young people would have rehearsed for weeks to stage their performance of the annual Sunday School Christmas Program. Immediately following, they would have thanked their Secret Santas, while eagerly unwrapping gifts, and all would feel right with the world. But this Christmas, to summon a youthful vernacular, “hits different.”

Against the backdrop of civil unrest and the persistent cries for justice that have unified peace-seeking people around the globe, COVID-19 has forced us to our knees, catalyzing a global race to discover a curative response. As I write this, the first rounds of vaccines against this novel virus are coursing through the veins of those inoculants who were first in line. We’ve been waiting to exhale for most of 2020, and this scientific progress allows us at least some cautious optimism. I continue to pray for the wisdom of our leaders and for a chance to regain the human connection that relieves the despair, isolation, fear and dire need left in COVID-19’s wake.

Despite this virus’s toll, there are glimmers of hope and demonstrable love that celebrate our humanity. These joyous moments have gone viral online and include inspirational stories of our health community warriors — the unrelenting, COVID-19 front line personnel, who sacrifice personal health, safety and life to care for and comfort their patients, especially those whose last comforts are virtual images of family on tablet screens as they transition from this life.

And Chef José Andrés, a Spanish immigrant to the U.S., who fights through crises and seeming hopelessness to feed multitudes of hungry and hopeless victims of the COVID-19 economy through his World Central Kitchen charity.

And Patrick Hutchinson of London, the CNN Hero who, during a march for justice, slung a collapsed Bryn Male over his shoulder and carried him from that civil rights protest field to safety.

And Toni Short, a Lewes resident who founded Lighthouse for Broken Wings and the Sheltering Heart program, which help homeless individuals reintegrate into society and find sustainable housing.

We can name many others who allow their lights to shine among us. Besides their “always on” work ethic, these people illustrate the transcendental power of love. They also affirm the achievable nature of Jesus Christ, who commanded his disciples in the Gospel of John, Chapter 13, to “love one another.”

What is love? Love is courage. Love is justice. Love is action. Love is sacrifice. Love is selflessness. Love is humility. Love discourages evil and diminishes our differences. Love does not stroke egos, encourage ill will or reinforce the man-made barriers that separate us. The Apostle Paul, whose very life epitomizes love’s transformative power, explains in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 exactly what love is and is not: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

During our last Advent service, Dr. Potter referenced this quote in his sermon: “The world has too many people who won’t plant trees unless they’re going to be around to eat the apples.” Fortunately, the world has many more people who are visionaries. Visioning is a selfless act that requires planting seeds today to sprout trees tomorrow. We may not live to eat the fruit of these trees, and that’s OK! We build legacy with the intent that future generations will understand, appreciate and model the sacrifices we endured to guarantee their children similar opportunities for quality of life and love.

Our first responders, Chef Andrés, Patrick Hutchinson, Toni Short and others like them are tree-planters who model a love language of courage, justice, action, sacrifice, selflessness and humble humanity. During this season of self-reflection and generosity, let’s each endeavor to plant trees.

Troy Darden is the communication officer for the College of Agriculture, Science and Technology at Delaware State University.

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