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In the Christian tradition, our commandments can be summed up in two: love God and love your neighbor. While the daily news seems to thrive on highlighting all the ways we fall short of loving one another, there are times when we get this "love" thing right as people in community.

Around Bentonville, the "Choose Love" signs display our school district's adoption of The Choose Love Enrichment Program, which will teach "educators and their students how to choose love in any circumstance and help them become connected, resilient and empowered individuals," according to the website. Jesse Lewis died in the Sandy Hook mass school shooting, and his mother Scarlett Lewis has dedicated herself to honoring her son's message of "Nurturing, Healing Love" that he left on a chalkboard in their kitchen. She has taken this message not only into schools but also into prisons. You can learn more not only by visiting the website but also by attending the Nov. 9 Choose Love Celebration from 10 a.m. to noon at Old High Middle School.

The fact that the program in its very name suggests one to "choose love" encourages me, and I hope it thrives among our children. Yet I also know that choosing love can be a risk and isn't always readily received.

Not far from one of the "Choose Love" signs in downtown Bentonville, the Confederate monument on the square stands tall, soon to be surrounded in holiday lights. During the farmers market this season, a concerted effort has been made to raise awareness that such a monument does not convey inclusivity for a community that prides itself on its diversity. More than 5,700 signatures on the petition to remove and relocate the statue agree. Interestingly, some people do not recognize the monument as a Confederate soldier, if they notice it at all. Others say they hadn't thought that the statue might be offensive, while still others hold fast that there's nothing wrong with such a monument. If we were to choose love collectively in our community, choosing the kind of love that connects and empowers everyone as radically and graciously as I believe God does, I wonder what kind of monument we would have in our town square. What could capture the spirit of inclusiveness that embraces all our neighbors across all nations and traditions?

There isn't one program or one sculpture that can convey true love the way that we can through our actions. Intentional acts done with empathy and compassion demonstrate not only that we believe in love but that we choose it. We don't get manuals on how to talk to our neighbors after a tornado or a car wreck, but we know these are tender moments, like so many others, when we reach out to one another. Seeking ways to reach out to one another and connect, preferably without first having to experience tragedy, we show that we value each other. Valuing someone else as much as we value ourselves; that's choosing love. We get love right when we choose it not solely because we are commanded to love but because we want to love.

When so much in our world careens toward seeming chaos and violence, moments affirming love help us imagine a world where beloved community is possible, and where there's imagination, there's hope. May we all choose love.

The Rev. Sara Milford serves as Vicar of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Bentonville. You can reach her at [email protected], especially if you'd like to meet up for coffee and a chat.

NAN Religion on 10/26/2019

Print Headline: Love is needed choice

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