On Sunday, June 13, Zambia Nkrumah, a long-time friend of my parents and an equally long-time artist and activist in the Louisville community, passed away.Â At a celebration of life service held in her memory several days later, I was reminded that showing love changes lives.
One of Zambiaâ€™s 16 godchildren described how someone would become her godchild: She would meet a young person, and at the end of a conversation with that young person, she would say something like, â€œI love you.Â You are mine.Â Whatever you need, you can call me, and I mean that.â€Â And with that, you were family.Â The godchild who spoke even thanked Zambiaâ€™s husband, blood children and mother for sharing her.
Days later, I found myself asking, â€œWho still loves like that?â€Â We are human beings, and our survival depends on one another.Â Our world depends on community, but selfishness, materialism, short-sightedness, greed and, ironically, our survival instinct, suction us into a tug-of-war between our own needs or desires and our compassion for others.
Iâ€™m guilty of letting the wrong side in the war win.Â Lately, Iâ€™ve blamed it on my profession; writing is a solitary profession that consumes my time and taxes my brain, and doing it on a freelance basis adds the burdens of hunting for the work, overseeing an admin team of one and managing an unsteady cash flow.Â My workoutâ€”about the only time during the day that I get to stand up, other than when I cook or cleanâ€”takes priority over almost anything else in the hours that Iâ€™m not working.Â Sleep is a close third.Â Iâ€™m more selective than I used to be about my charitable gifts, and as tempting as it is to tithe my time and talent instead of my treasureâ€”and as much I sincerely would like to help everyone who needs my help, irrespective of ability to payâ€”giving time and talent away for free to everyone who asks for it borders on insanity for a business owner.
My profession and finances set their own limitations, but what about giving my heart? Iâ€™m routinely described as a nice person, but I donâ€™t know anyone who would say I have a big heart.
After the celebration of Zambiaâ€™s life, I prayed about my lack of a loving spirit.Â I started to chalk it up to hospitality just not being my gift, but then I had to admit that if Iâ€™m made in Godâ€™s image and am to imitate Christ, then I am not only required to be a better servant, but I am also fully capable of doing so–freely, fully and unconditionally.
This means I can get beyond both the desensitization to the problems facing people in our society and the problemsâ€™ ability to overwhelm those who have the means to help into throw-up-both-my-hands-whatâ€™s-the-point subjugation.Â I predict it will be a gradual shift; it could be years before Iâ€™m able to open my heart or home the way Zambia did, and I might find that I have a different way of showing love all together.Â But at least I can be a little more patient.Â The population that tugs at my heart may not be the same one that tugged at hers, but at least I can acknowledge that I am part of a community and that some members of my community are hurting.Â I can listen a little more closely to someone who needs an attentive ear.Â And I can be more alert to the fact that I need to take more opportunities to show love to others.