As we celebrate the holiday season, commentator Rawlins Gilliland reflects on the many faces of life and love.
The first time I heard the song “Eleanor Rigby” ask “All the lonely people, where do they all come from, where do they all belong?” I pondered its gentle empathy. But when the Beatles sang “All You Need Is Love,” I rejected that as pop simplistic.
I’ve now, however, lived long enough to consider that simple premise to be profound.
Recently, on Facebook, I saw a picture of a friend being kissed on the forehead by a woman who apparently adores him. Recalling the tune that says “the look of love is in your eyes,” I was struck. It’s not as though Brian ever looked lonely, but I could now see an at-ease relief poise in his expression.
I remember when I saw a glimmer of that transformation in my homeless friend Charles who lives camped in the woods. After Charles came to trust me as his first real friend, his face, which had always drooped, became somewhat smooth, his blue eyes clear. It was as though he was a desert plant after a rare rain. Charles helps me believe that all the lonely people need is love.
Recently, I attended an intimate public event sponsored by Café Momentum, a Dallas non-profit that teaches culinary service industry skills to teenage boys after their release from jail or prison. Two young men shared their agonized personal stories predating any of them having ever seen "the look of love."
19 year-old Leonardo wept recalling how he was abandoned at 14 years old on Christmas Day; how his infant daughter died shortly after birth. 18 year-old Adolph spoke about his mother, who was only 13 when he was born. Adolph’s mother burned him with a steam iron before running over him in her car because he looked like his biological father who abandoned her.
Leonardo and Adolph had zero opportunities to survive, let alone prevail, until Café Momentum’s Chad Houser became, in their words, the “first person ever disappointed” when they didn’t show up.
Now, vulnerable before a cheering audience, I witnessed their graduation from evasive, cold and angry teen boys I met earlier this year into loyal young men with a softly twinkling look in their war-weary eyes.
All they need was love.
All creatures want to know they’re not alone. When my next-door neighbor Billie died, I adopted the frightened feral cats she for years had fed. One by one, each feline sensed I would not let them go hungry. Even the shape of their eager faces has changed from long to round as they wait each morning on the kitchen windowsill.
Sometimes happiness is watching a damaged living thing realize your touch is not an act of aggression. Answering a lonely person’s question “where do they all belong?” Helping someone believe that the look of love can be, as the song says, “a look that time can’t erase.”
I wish no less for us all. Happy New Year.
Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas.