expressions of love


Thing Two. Shout your love, and be specific.

Years ago, I was sitting in a class at BYU one afternoon. The guest lecturer, Stephen R. Covey, was there with his daughter, Maria. These were virtually the first (very loud) words out of his mouth that day: “I love my daughter Maria!” We all jumped. Not kidding. It was like he was shouting it to the winds. No, that’s not accurate:  it was like he was shouting it to the planet Neptune.

Volume aside, though, what I walked away with that day were two things. One, if you love a child, then why not make it known? The look on Maria’s face made me smile. I swear she was thinking, “Oh gosh, here we go again.” But no one in that lecture hall could have doubted Covey’s affection for the girl sharing the microphone with her dad.

I have never proclaimed my love that loudly before. But there is one thing I do at a softer volume, and it’s no less sincere for not being audible to anyone but the girl in question. I identify something I love (and this works as well with boys as it does with girls), and I articulate it. Example: “How beautiful your hands are. I love your hands.”

The trick with this: a) you’ve got to feel it deep down, for real, and b) you’ve got to time it right.  Moments like these require a certain . . . openness, for lack of a better word.

But back to hands.  I LOVE my daughters’ hands, both sets! (Two girls, four hands altogether.) They both have their dad’s hands–elegantly shaped, long fingers. And both girls use their hands expressively–to help me see what they’re thinking or feeling.  Hand-love, spoken aloud:  easy-breezy.

Try this. Give yourself twenty seconds, and identify just one thing you absolutely adore about a daughter (or daughters!).  Then determine how and when you’re going to express that.

Take-away number two.  Noticing what you love about a daughter and articulating it not only for yourself but more particularly for her makes it more real. I believe this. The petals’ hands would always be their hands whether or not I ever happened to notice their beauty. But the second I tell one of them out loud how lovely their hands are, the realness of what I’ve just put into words registers somewhere inside me, in a place where love seems to deepen and brighten for having become said and not just felt.  Likewise, inside the heart of the child who receives that little gift packaged in words, the belief that they are indeed worthy of notice and affection is strengthened, maybe just enough to combat a negative message–from somewhere else–preparing to hit its mark.

Covey shouting his love for his daughter. I’m smiling right now, not just because I can remember exactly what his voice sounded like but also because, on Maria’s face, you could so clearly see that, while she’d heard this enough times to make her want to roll her eyes, she believed it.

(For the record:  the two sets of hands in the photo belong to Miss Lavender and Miss Primrose, whose hands I also adore.)

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