Love cannot be divided

Randy Riley - Contributing Columnist

This story has been rattling around in my head for years.

I’ve always heard that it was attributed it to the late, great writer from Dayton, Erma Bombeck. It sounds like a story Erma would write, but I simply cannot find proof that she authored the story.

Regardless of who wrote it … thanks for the gift. I love it.

I will retell the story as well as I can remember it. What I don’t remember exactly, I’ll just fill in.

“A group of young mothers were enjoying a play-date with their children at their local park. Each mother had one or two children running around and playing on the swings and slides. They sipped their coffee and laughed easily as they traded stories about family and friends.

An elderly lady came near and sat on a bench close to them. It was obvious she enjoyed watching the children play. It soon became obvious that she could overhear their stories. She soon joined them in their laughter and they invited her to join them in the pleasures of the day.

As they talked and introduced each other, she was soon asked about her own family, her children and grandchildren. She replied that, after 60 years of marriage, she was now a widow. During their time together, she and her husband had nine children. They now had 23 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, with one more on the way. Her peaceful, angelic smile grew as she spoke of her husband and family.

None of the young mothers had more than two children. They were simply in awe. Soon, one of them mentioned that is was remarkable for anyone to have so many children and grandchildren. She asked the older woman, “How could you possibly divide your love among so many people?”

The grandmother smiled. She replied, “My dear, you don’t understand the simple mathematics of love. Love cannot be divided. It can only be multiplied.”

Stunned, they all sat quietly for a few moments. Then a smile started that spread from one young face to all of the others. As the grandmother rose to excuse herself, each of the young ladies, still smiling, stood, embraced her and thanked her for her wisdom.”

I am not sure if this story is true. I have serious doubts that the story was written by Erma Bombeck. But, regardless of the origin of this particular story, I choose to believe it to be true. I believe in the concept. I believe in the moral of the story.

At some point in our lives, we need to choose what to believe and what not to believe. I choose to believe in the power of love. I choose to believe that love cannot be divided — only multiplied.

My favorite Bible verse has to do with love. It is from the Gospel of John, chapter 13. Jesus and his disciples were gathered in the upper room. He was explaining to them that He would not be with them much longer. Then Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. Even as I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

It is a shame that there is simply not enough love in the world.

I graduated from Germantown High School with a young lady named Anne Herbert. As I recall, Anne’s father was a Presbyterian minister. I remember her as being a free spirit. In our Class of 1968 yearbook, Anne was voted as the class non-conformist.

At some point after graduation, Anne moved to Sausalito, California. There she became a writer.

The story that I have heard is that Anne was sitting in a diner listening to the local news. As she listened, she heard the broadcaster use the familiar term “random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty.”

Anne wrote on her placemat that we should all strive to “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” That phrase has spread across the nation. It has spawned a few books and several articles. It is an excellent message for all of us to practice.

We still hear of incredibly violent acts of pain and cruelty. Just last week, in Pike County, eight people from a single family were slaughtered. What a horrible act of violence and cruelty.

In our own families, in our own communities and in our own lives, we need to counteract the violence and cruelty of the world with acts of love, kindness and beauty.

There is a quote, that I know came from Erma Bombeck. She said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

Let us focus on that thin line. Let us strive to make that line a strong line — a line of laughter, humor, love and kindness — where love can never be divided only multiplied over and over again.

Randy Riley is Wilmington President of Council.

Randy Riley

Contributing Columnist