"Have you ever pretended to care/love someone when you just didn't feel like it?"
Yes, indeed! Cynics might want to call that "hypocrisy," but I see it as one of our primary duties to perform in daily interaction with family, friends, business associates and perfect strangers.
The loving approach -- especially when we don't particularly feel like being kind, understanding, accepting and appreciative -- is the one thing that makes life not only more tolerable, it brings us joy.
Suspicion, resentment, distrust, disapproval, dislike, fault-finding, eagerness to punish, etc. breed more of the same and become self-perpetuating.
One of my great aunts, whom I have mentioned numerous times, was a woman who had great faith. She believed --absolutely -- that Jesus "walked beside her, and guided her way through every moment of every day."
She was poor, lived alone in New York City, and continued to work till the end of her EIGHTY-EIGHTH year, simply because she needed the money.
Obliged to take public transportation she firmly maintained the belief that every stranger was a friend she had not yet had the chance to know.
She was accosted several times in her career by young toughs -- thugs -- gangsters -- whatever you want to call them -- and each time she responded without fear. Instead, she always smiled up at the young men, expressed sympathetic concern for their well being, opened up her purse, showed them her money, and said she'd be glad to give them whatever she had, because she could see they needed it much more than she, and, then asked politely if they would please let her keep one subway token so she could get back home.
Each time this happened the boys backed off, looked chagrined, and apologized for bothering her.
Her focus was on THEM not herself. Her concern for THEM was real. Her active faith -- an approach to life shedeliberately cultivated through daily prayer made her fearless, kind and generous.
Those who knew her -- or encountered her -- responded accordingly.
I think she proved that a determination to express loving concern for the well being of others at every available opportunity was the most powerful "armor" anyone could wear.
Her faith made it possible for her to see beyond the surface, disregard undesirable behavior, and get to the heart of things by sedulously practicing The Golden Rule.
Many in the family would say she was crazy -- "a dotty old lady who looks at life through rose-colored glasses" -- was their opinion.
Well, with very little going for her she managed to be one of the happiest, most confident people I've ever known. She lived just a few weeks shy of her one-hundredth birthday, was never ill, was never forced to leave her little apartment to enter a nursing home, and died peacefully after a short bout with pneumonia.
It really doesn't get any better than that.
I asked if I may reprint that (which you can see I did), and FT replied:
Of course you may share aunt's story, Ed! How good of you to see the value in it!
I tried to get her to write a book about her life when she was in her early eighties. She tried, but Alas! was no writer. She was a professional accountant -- and had been a good concert singer in her youth -- but writing was not her forte.
Aunt's life was full of remarkable anecdotes. If I'd realized sooner how remarkable she really was I would have made it my business to tape record our conversations.
She was not only a sincere Christian who practiced her religion as few do, she also managed to be living proof that money, power and "position," do not necessarily give someone dignity, tact, good taste, and fine appearance. It's true aunt had started out as the daughter of wealthy man who made sure she received a good education (by the standards of the late-nineteenth-century), but when he died whatever money he had, apparently, died with him. Aunt and her mother were destitute. To make matters worse the mother promptly had a nervous breakdown. Understandable, maybe, but certainly no help.
This sudden reversal of fortune proved to be the cornerstone of the foundation of what was to become her life.
She never married, never made much money, but -- as far as I'm concerned -- her simple, childlike faith made her a big winner in The Game of Life.