Fifteen feet up. I reach for my fifth Gatorade of the morning as my head starts to spin once again from pure exhaustion. The last four days have been spent rolling out the long, black felt paper, slapping staples, laying shingles, and listening to the constant “ch-klunk, ch-klunk, ch-klunk” of the staple gun over and over again. Every muscle in my body is sore and I can hardly bend down without intense pain in my back. Yet, despite all of it, this has been the best week of my life.
I will always remember the week I spent replacing the roof and restoring the home of a spirited, yet struggling woman named Marla as the week I learned how to love.
A few hours into this week of backbreaking work, I made a decision. I would give until it hurt and then some. By Tuesday of that week, it hurt, physically and emotionally. I wanted to quit. Yet, love drove me on. Each shingle laid was a choice to put my own comfort aside for the sake of someone else. I did it all because I cared about Marla, the team I was working with, and the small rural community we were working to restore.
It is in these little choices of self-sacrifice that I see love all around me.
I see love in my parents’ choice to say “I’m sorry” when neither of them wants to be wrong. Their small actions every day show my siblings and I that any sacrifice is small when love is great. I cannot tell you how many times my dad has given up his fair share of dessert when one of my growing teenage brothers looked longingly at it. Or how many loads of laundry my mom has done without complaining—even though we can’t seem to get the whole “put your dirty clothes in the basket” thing down no matter how many times she asks.
I see love in my roommates’ ability to forgive. They see all the worst parts of me. Living in the same house and sharing the same bathroom, I cannot hide my flaws from them. They see the parts of me that are selfish and irritable. They see the tears after a long day of putting on a brave face and forcing a smile. Even when we fight. Even when I fail to make that choice of love for them. They choose to forgive me. They choose to see the best in me.
I see love in my best friends since forever who chose to love me through my awkward middle school years. I see love in the grocery store clerk who chooses to ask about my day, even though all she can think about is getting home. I see love in a friend’s choice to stop and offer his lunch to a homeless man, when he could have easily looked the other way.
In all of this, these little choices to love and these relationships of self-gift and self-sacrifice, I have experienced real joy despite life’s difficulties. I believe in love because love chooses the good of another, even in the midst of pain and suffering.
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