Once upon a time there was a man who was given a very important job by his father. “Love,” his father told him, “and do as you will.” The instructions were simple, perhaps too simple. The man thought for a very long time about the task his father had given him. And then he thought some more.
Finally the man began to do. First he made a list. “Surely,” he said to himself, “my father doesn’t want me to love everyone. Some people don’t deserve to be loved and some don’t want to be loved.” And so the man walked through the world compiling a list of all the people he was sure he did not need to love.
Next the man made another list. “Not only would my father not want me to love some people, he would obviously want me to hate some people. He wouldn’t want me to love people who hated him or who opposed the things he stands for.” And so the man, in his wisdom, made another list. An even longer list than the first. He included people who did bad things, people who hurt other people, people who campaigned against his father and said terrible things about his father. On his list he put people who did things his father said his children wouldn’t do and some people who just made the man feel uncomfortable to be around them.
Finally the man made a third list. “Of course my father wouldn’t want me to include those who can’t appreciate love.” And so he compiled a list that included the mentally ill, the mentally handicapped, the people with Alzheimer’s, people who owned cats and people who watch public broadcasting and reality shows.
And the man was proud of himself.
No one would ever be able to accuse the man of wasting the love his father had given to him. In fact, when he was done his list was surprisingly short. And so he did as his father told him, exactly what his father had told him. And he loved the 3 people on his list well. Very well.
One day his father asked him how the loving was going.
“Father,” he said with a big smile, “You would be so proud of me! If you like I can bring all 3 people in and you can ask them yourself!”
“3 people?” Asked his father. “But there are billions in the world and there must even be hundreds in your own little world. What about everyone else?”
“Well, I know the kind of man you are and I know the kind of people you hate and those who hate you. I knew you wouldn’t want me to love all those people. That would be like betraying you! And there are hateful people out there who don’t deserve love and…”
His father held up his hand to stop him. “Son, I only ever said, ‘Love’. What I meant was ‘Love’. I wanted to make it as clear as possible by saying ‘Love’ that I meant All. I gave you the simple instruction I did so that you’d never be faced with a person and have to wonder if this person was who you were meant to love. If the sunshine can land on them or the rain can fall on them or gravity can hold them, those are the people I want you to love.”