The Definition of Love

  • Our Work
  • 12-21-18

In the final week leading up to Christmas, groups that celebrate advent focus on love.  If you look up the word “love” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, you get a lot of different definitions.  For starters, because it’s both a noun and a verb, love has two different entries.  The first (noun) entry alone boasts nine different definitions, and the second (verb) has five.*

Usually, we think of love as either romantic or familial, but those aren’t the only ways to use to word.  As I walk the halls of Immanuel, I see many different expressions of love.  Not every definition in the dictionary is appropriate, of course, but several are.  Here are just a few examples, organized by the dictionary definitions they meet:

1: Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (noun)

  • This one is personal; my Grandpa lives at Buffalo Hill Terrace, so I get to see him, and tell him I love him, more often than I would otherwise. In general, Immanuel is great at involving families in resident activities and milestones.  In recent weeks, for example, at the various Christmas dinners held on campus, families and friends came to enjoy gourmet dinners with residents.  As residents and their guests ate and chatted, the atmosphere was full of love.**
  • I’ve also seen staff express love for residents by residents by learning their likes, dislikes, and histories. A few months ago, I heard a great story.  A CNA in the Assisted Living department learned that a resident was of German descent and spoke German.  She was born in Germany and also spoke the language, so she began speaking to him in German.  As a result, they developed a special bond.

2: Warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion (noun); to like or desire actively: take pleasure in (verb)

  • There’s a resident at the Skilled Care Center who loves music. Whenever I see her while music is playing, she has her eyes closed and is listening intently, maybe a swaying a little bit in time to it.  Live music is a common feature of recreation calendars across campus, so she has many opportunities to enjoy it.  When she expressed a desire to meet a band playing at an event, the Recreation staff made it possible.  Immanuel staff care that she has what she loves.
  • My Grandpa loves playing games. Almost every Thursday, he meets a group of other residents in a common space to play a card game called Hand and Foot.  All of them love engaging in this activity that brings them pleasure, made possible by the fact that they live in community togheter.
  • A couple of months ago, Passions Project participant and popular canine Terrace resident Toby Maurer turned ten years old. For his birthday, the Recreation and Wellness staff took him a large treat.  Toby’s owners David and Martha love him very much, of course, and they appreciated the recognition by the staff of their beloved pet.

3: Unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another (noun)

  • I see this one every day because it’s embedded in Immanuel’s culture. The examples below are the tip of a lovely iceberg.
  • Recently, a resident wasn’t feeling well. He went to the dining room anyway, and the waitstaff noticed that he wasn’t himself.  They made sure a staff member brought a wheelchair to get him safely back to his apartment.  This is part of a larger pattern where dining staff know the residents well enough to know what their “normal” is—as an expression of their loving hearts.
  • Every year, one of the churches in our region takes the time to find out what each resident in the Skilled Care Center would like for Christmas. Volunteers from the church then purchase and deliver the gifts, so all residents get a present tailored specifically for their wants.  This church is some distance away, and most members of the congregation have never met the residents.  They purchase and deliver these gifts out of unselfish love.

*For the grammar nerds out there, there are four definitions for “love” as a transitive verb and one as an intransitive verb.  This is a word with many properties.

**Of course, love of the food was also a commonly-expressed emotion.  See also definition 2.

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