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A Legacy of Love

"To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die."

Thomas Campbell

How long does a hug last? Only a moment? Can it last a day? A week? A year? Can it last forever?

When you hug your child or grandchild, your mother or grandmother, your father or grandfather, your brother or sister, your partner or friend, that hug can convey a sense of warmth, specialness, security, trust, caring, and love. Not a word might pass between you, but the hug remains. I'm not talking about the empty, overhugging that has become a trademark of one too many self-help gurus. That kind of hugging takes the meaning out of hugging. Everything just becomes one big hug festival. I mean the kind of regular hugging in a close relationship that communicates genuine caring. The squeeze-tight hug you give when something wonderful happens. The enveloping hug you give when life is hard and the pain overwhelming. That kind of hugging creates an atmosphere in which love can grow. And that's the kind of hug that lasts forever.

A hug is a way to create a personal legacy of love in your family. But what about creating a legacy of "love" in the larger community? What can you do for the rest of humanity, for those billions of people you don't really "love" but with whom you share the planet? I suggest simple civility as a place to start.

Rudeness has almost become a way of life. People excuse it or rationalize it to themselves because they're "busy" or "in a hurry" or "stressed." No one writes thank you notes anymore. Ignoring your phone messages and e-mail is just fine (after all, "everyone" does it). Cutting someone off on the freeway or cutting in front of them in line is commonplace. Then there are the inevitable noisy people in the movie theater. People used to hesitate to be loud or make a scene. Now it seems okay. Are we boldly challenging grievous social constraints and injustices, or have we become victims of our own quest for individual self-empowerment?

Incivility may seem trivial, little more than the accumulated annoyances of modern life. But it poisons a sense of goodwill and community. You need basic decency, basic manners to build community. If you send the message that other people are disposable and have little value, that they can be treated with rudeness and contempt, and you internalize that message, you carry that attitude everywhere and it colors the society we choose to create.

So, if you take nothing else away from this kit, remember this: Give a hug to the people you love, and be civil to everyone else. The world will be a much better place for it.

From Valentine's Activity Kit by Susan V. Bosak ©2004

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