by Daniela Fraga-Abaza
Leo Buscaglia taught a class called the “Love Class”. His novel, Love is a compilation of lectures and themes he taught and learned from his students in that class. Buscaglia says love has no definition, but all throughout Love he basically defines what love is really about. He talks about how to live in love and what real love is. While reading this book, I was constantly thinking about my life and questioning my habits of love. I thought about how I am living in love the right way, and what areas of living in love I need to work on.
Throughout Love I kept on thinking about my own experiences of love. Many of the major themes in the book made me constantly look back on and think about my experience of volunteering at a Syrian refugee camp in Greece. During my three weeks volunteering at the camp, I learned more about love than I could have in a lifetime of staying at home. All the relationships I built, and everything I learned and saw taught me valuable things that Buscaglia emphasizes in his book. Buscaglia wants the readers to apply his book to their own lives, and this is how his book applied to mine.
Responsible love is to share. I always thought of myself as a loving person, but after volunteering at the refugee camp and reading Love I realize I wasn't nearly sharing enough love. I heard about the Syrian refugee crisis in the news, but I never felt close to the problem. It felt so far away and had no direct effect on me. I obviously felt awful about the situation, but I never did anything to help. That is the selfish truth. It wasn't until I went and volunteered at the camp, and built friendships with the refugees and volunteers, did I feel the need to take responsibility for the refugee crisis around the world.
Buscaglia shares an example, in which a professor of a sociology class at an eastern American college asked his students to donate ten cents to either save peoples lives who were suffering from a severe drought in Southern India, an excellent black student’s college fund who was being forced to leave school because of a huge family misfortune, or a new Xerox machine for the students to use which would make their lives at school easier. To my surprise, over 85 percent of the students donated their money towards the new Xerox machine, 12 percent was given to the black student, and 3 percent was given to save lives in Southern India. This proves that, “The further away the problem the less was the responsibility to share felt”.
I was guilty of this mentality until I realized that there is always something we can do. Buscaglia taught me that all people are my responsibility and I need to share my love with the whole world. Love was always shared amongst the refugees and volunteers, and was key to helping change lives. My experience at the refugee camp made it clear that no matter how far away I am, to take even a little responsibility for other people and share my love, can only create something positive. Love isn't an object, and by sharing it you won’t lose any love, you can only gain and grow. Love is only real and meaningful when it is shared. By not sharing love, it becomes pointless.
True love means personal growth in all parties involved. Every single Syrian refugee in the camp had a tragic story of how they ended up in Greece. They all lived in a war zone and are lucky to have survived. They all lost friends or family to the war and are some of the very few lucky ones that got out of there. The goal at the refugee camp is to help the refugees find a new home in Europe and become citizens of that country.
The refugees who were open to love reciprocated my love, which caused a mutual and equal self-growth. I taught children and women English while they were teaching me Arabic. Mothers taught me how to properly change a diaper, while I taught them the importance of dental hygiene. All the refugees taught me to stay positive no matter what, while I helped them try to find a safe, new home. With these rough and traumatic pasts, not all the refugees were open to love and learning.
I volunteered there for three weeks, and the whole time there was a young man, Zaid, who barely ever left his room. I saw him only when he came out to get food during lunch and breakfast hours. Overtime I tried to talk to him, but he would immediately become defensive and rude. I tried to breakthrough his defensive shell, but sadly I never could. Every single day I tried to share love with him, but he was never open to it. He had seen so much evil and darkness that it seemed like he gave up on the force of love. It was heartbreaking to see how negatively the war affected him. Compared to some of the other refugees, who were eager to turn their lives around, Zaid and so many others had given up.
The people who were open to love didn't waste their human potential, while the people who were closed to love sadly wasted theirs. It was ultimately up to the refugees if they wanted to try and start a new life, or continue living in a refugee camp.
People need to be open to love to accept it. “Real love is dedicated to continual becoming,” and by closing themselves off to love, some of the refugees sadly were never able to experience any sort of personal growth. Some refugees just took longer than others to accept the help and love they deserved. It is crucial to be “aware that each changes at his own rate,” and that all some people need is a push in the right direction.
As a volunteer I couldn't give up on any of the refugees, and I realized that all some of them needed was time, but some never accepted the love volunteers and I tried to share. Love decays if there is no growth. I clearly saw this between the refugees that had a more positive look on their situation, than the refugees who only saw the negatives and refused help. The love was gone between these two different types of people. The love also decayed between the volunteers who were trying to share their love, and the refugees who refused to accept their love. Real love can last forever if it leads to self-growth, but once you stop growing in any relationship, the love will destroy itself.
A key to real love is to say “Yes.” Opportunities, people, love, joy, and knowledge are all things that come around, but sometimes they only come around once in a lifetime. By saying, “Yes,” it allows these things to come into your life. By saying “No” to something you immediately exclude it; “to exclude it is to close it out, perhaps forever”.
Throughout my 18 years on this Earth, I have learned to say “Yes” more often, and when I don't I tend to regret it. As soon as I heard my mom tell my brother, sister, and I that she was going to fly to Greece as a volunteer at a Syrian refugee camp, I knew I had to join her. My brother, sister, and I immediately planned a fundraiser and threw it two days later to raise money to cover our travel costs to Greece. It was all very last minute. We held the fundraiser one week before we were supposed to be volunteering at the camp. By saying, “Yes” to this opportunity, I said, “Yes” to love, knowledge, and life. I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to help an issue I saw on the news daily, and knew the experience of going to a refugee camp was priceless. “For you are your words,” and by saying, “Yes,” I took a huge step on the path of discovering love.
To learn to love, you must experience it. Love is a confusing thing for me. I can’t say that I have ever been in love, but I do know that I love my family and friends. Going to the refugee camp, I experienced a tremendous amount of love. I never met these refugees before, but as soon as I got there, children ran up to me and hugged me, mothers gave me kisses on my cheeks, and fathers shook my hand and thanked me for being there. I was overwhelmed with the amount of love being shared around me. I had to walk out and take a minute to collect myself.
I’ve never experienced that amount of love in such a short time with so many people. None of the refugees knew anything about me, yet they trusted me and shared their love with me. I saw a type of love I had never seen before. I saw that all humans are capable of loving each other, and love is something that needs to be shared worldwide, and not just with our special someone, or families and friends. Without this experience I would remain with my small idea of love, which was limited to what I had scene in chick flicks.
The existentialist says, “To be is to do”. Taking action and creating experiences are very powerful. You must experience something in order to learn about it. If you want to love, you need to be an active participant of love. If you aren't an active participant of whatever you want to learn about and you don't gain experiences, there is no way you will gain the proper knowledge.
Buscaglia asks us to live a reflective and conscious life. He tells us what love and life are really about, and ways to apply it to our lives. We apply his book to our own lives, consciously and subconsciously throughout the whole book. Our brain automatically makes connections with ideas from the present to past experiences. The major themes in Love constantly made me think about my experience working with the Syrian refugees.
Reading this book allowed me, for the first time, to really look back and reflect on my experience at the refugee camp. It all happened so fast that I never had the time to think about what I took away from the experience and how it made me grow as a person. Buscaglia made me realize that my experience was crucial to my idea of love. I never thought about the connection between love and my experience in Greece, but now I see that my experience had a direct effect on my path of learning to live in love.
Buscaglia successfully gets the reader to reflect on their past, present, and future; and successfully shows the importance love has on every single thing humans do. He puts love in every equation, and shows the endless definitions and ways of living in love. He gives “Love” the importance it deserves.