Last night was movie night in our house. We were camped on on the bed, hubby on one side, me on the other, baby in between, my oldest son teetering on the far edge while his brothers and sister came and went. They were more interested in fighting space battles with plastic light sabers than watching a shoot-em-up bang-bang movie on TV.
The movie was pure action adventure, with an unlikely hero pitted against a stereotypically evil bad guy. At one point, Bad Guy tells Hero that he must come and personally deliver the ransom money to him or else hostages would be killed. Hero, who had showed up at work that morning thinking to simply work his shift and go home, is faced with a dilemma. His life for the lives of the hostages. Not an easy choice. He decides to do as Bad Guy commands. While he’s on his way to the chopper to deliver the loot, he calls his wife. He tries to downplay the seriousness of the situation, but she’s been watching it unfold on TV so she is worried. They talk back and forth over the noise of the rotors, and here’s where I think the best bit of dialogue comes in. He tells her he will come home, but that if he doesn’t, she should tell their daughter to run straight in her hurdle race the next day. In response, instead of pledging undying love, she tells him, with all the emotion in her voice, “You better come home because – I need a gallon of milk”.
A gallon of milk? I’m about to go into a dangerous showdown with Bad Guy and you need a gallon of milk? You might think that she was crazy, that she didn’t grasp the gravity of the situation, but really, that line was perfect and showed how we sometimes display our love, and it’s an important lesson to us all. See, she wasn’t just telling him she needed a gallon of milk from the store. She was telling him “I’m scared, I love you, you are my world, and my world cannot go on without you, so you better make sure you survive this ordeal so we can continue going on with our beautiful, unremarkable, mundane lives.”
How often do we say I love you to those who are important to us? Some people rarely say the actual words, and for others, they trip lightly off the tongue with no more thought than, well, “I need a gallon of milk”. But the love is there in so many other phrases. “Put on a sweater” spoken by a mom on a chilly morning means “I love you and I don’t want you to get sick”. “When are you coming home for lunch?” means “I love you and you never remember to eat and I don’t want you to get weak and feel bad”. When a husband makes time on a busy day to have the oil changed in the car and gas it up, he’s saying “I love you and want you to be safe when you drive across town to visit with your mom”. When a child insists on showing his mom the shape of every one of his wad of a hundred Silly Bandz he’s saying “You’re the most important person in the world to me and I want to share my happiness with you”. We tell each other I love you all the time; wisdom lies in being able to hear it when the words are not spoken.
Love is not all breathless confessions of undying devotion, flowers and candy, and romantic candlelit dinners. Real love is much more all-encompassing than that. Love is when your eyes meet over the heads of your children and you smile at each other in wonderment that you brought these little human beings into the world. Love is waiting up for your husband when he works late so you can warm up his dinner and serve him hot tea. Love is remembering to come home from work on time so your wife can go to her aerobics class. Love is sometimes letting your kid have chips for snack instead of a healthy apple. Love is all this and more. It’s not just those three little words that seem to be so important to us. It is the daily deeds of kindess we do for one another that sometimes we are so quick to discount. “You never say you love me!”. Some people are not comfortable uttering the words, but they live that love every day. And if you listen very closely, you can hear the I love you when she says “I need a gallon of milk”.