A few weeks ago on Twitter, I followed a link to the Obama Loves You Back website and watched the numerous videos of President Obama giving speeches, interrupted by fans screaming, “WE LOVE YOUUUU!” Each time Obama responded, “I love you back!” without pause. There are maybe 20 videos that stream one after another and then it ends; it’s a fun website in its simplicity.
The first time I watched the President say “I love you back,” I was aghast. How could he love those people if he didn’t even know them? That’s a hefty thing to say — you don’t just go around saying “I love you” to any Joe Schmoe.
Then my reaction turned to skepticism. It’s a political gimmick, I thought — a smart one to keep the crowds enamored with this charismatic young president. Well played, Mr. Obama, but I see right through you.
Then I watched more and more videos, all of them on the site with Obama saying, “I love you” as though it’s the easiest and most natural thing in the world. “I love you back, thank you. I love you back but listen to me for a minute because this is important. I love YOU back.”
Then it hit me like a sea breeze in November: What if it was real? What if Mr. Obama goes through life practicing love towards everyone, and that’s why he can say “I love you back!” without a moment’s hesitation to people he doesn’t know?
I’m not gonna lie, I’m boggled. I’ve been planning a post about generosity for the past few months, chewing it over in my head; this encompasses it better. Obama loves you back because Obama walks around with his heart full of lurve.
I’ll be the first to admit that it sounds twee. And yet I’ve been doing this too! Not all the time because I am not trying to get elected, and I haven’t been calling it love. But we moved to a new apartment in a new state last year, with a new housemate and new neighbors who moved in around the same time as us. I made a conscious effort to practice generosity, to open my heart and care for these people as though they are family. Then they became family. All of them.
I don’t mean to pat my own back here, but maybe you’ll see what I mean if I tell you that growing up, whenever I let someone borrow something, I begrudged them whatever item it was. Go ahead and picture me, the little grump with a sullen face and mussed up hair, worrying about lending my Babysitter’s Club books or my favorite pencil.
I had to make myself change this behavior over the last six months as I loaned clothes, books, cleaning supplies, cooking supplies, my car, my bike, my ear, my time. At first I felt twinges of nervousness (What if they damage my stuff? When do I expect in return?) but after a while it become second nature as we shared items back and forth, and I received more generously than I gave. This was unexpected, but it allows me to care very little about what I’m owed. No one owes me anything because the comfort and friendship I get more than repays the inconvenience of not possessing my sauerkraut jar for a few days.
This progressed to inviting these near strangers to share in our dog walks/movie nights/board game nights/holiday dinners — usually impromptu, (kind of like the time Mr. Savvy and I went hiking with strangers for five hours and came out friends). I would read about these types of situations on blogs by travelers, like Tara and Tyler from Going Slowly, or on the other side of the coin, Renee and Damien from FIMBY. Weary wanderers meet loving, generous strangers who open their homes and larders. How could this happen? I used to think. Now I know: It’s much easier to embrace the world with its uncertainties than it is to hold tight onto fear and selfishness all the time.
Maybe Obama’s not sincere about loving us back, but he’s sure as shooting setting a good example. At any rate, it’s hard to say something like that over and over without believing it. Fake it ’til you make it! Who says wearing your heart on your sleeve is a bad thing?
©2012 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where this is a mushy gushy blog and I like it.