Written By Emily Schlangen
“Without love, we are birds with broken wings.”
I read this line when I was 17, in my high school English class, and it has guided my life. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom tells the story of Morrie Schwartz, an influential professor in the 70s, who was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease when a former student came to visit him and began to write his story, a story of generosity and love. His message was that if we don’t cherish the love between us and others, there is no love; relationships are broken, and we no longer have the wings to fly.
Growing up I was always taught to treat others with kindness. I learned the golden rule: “do unto others as you would want done onto you.” This nourished the seeds of finding greatness in every person I meet and always asking the question “How can I give Love today?” A true testament of this question was in high school, when other students took their personal hurt out on me through bullying. I was faced with a choice that I could either react or respond to their actions. In asking myself, “how can I give love?” I found it in my heart to choose to see the good in them and forgive them as it says in Luke 23:34 “forgive them for they know not what they do.” This was not an easy thing for a teenage girl, but while choosing to forgive, I also chose to take this as an opportunity for me to take my eyes off of myself and put them on those who needed a generous heart.
After giving love through forgiveness, I then asked myself, how I could bring love into my high school environment? The answer to my question came in a surprising way. My friend Michelle asked me to teach her Algebra. Michelle had a learning disability and always wanted to learn, but her teachers said she wasn’t ready for it. I volunteered that every day at lunch for a semester I would teach her. I will always cherish the excitement in her smile and joy that radiated from her spirit when I would walk up to the table, open up my textbook and have her write in her notebook y=mx+b.
Looking for new ways to add a little more love has been a way of living, but a way of being. Operation Impact has allowed me to continue this way of life. The first year I was a part of the organization, I participated in the annual shutdown of Target, where we team up and shop for individual families in need. That year a group of us had a special surprise Christmas for a family who lost their home in a fire. One of my friends opened their home to invite the family for a pizza dinner. What they did not know, was that next to the couch was the pile of gifts wrapped just for them. As we began passing out gifts, the family looked like they couldn’t believe what was happening. The joy on their faces as they teared open their presents is a memory I’ll hold close forever. It brought tears to my eyes.
This act of generosity is what Morrie means by giving love- to take our eyes off of ourselves and find a way to be helpful to others. Without that love we are broken spirits. With that love we are whole. I challenge you to always ask yourself, how can I give love today and can I give more?
By: Emily E. Schlangen
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