In a letter to the citizens of Corinth, the early Christian evangelist Paul said that love is patient and kind, and is not envious, nor boastful, nor proud. It’s a beautiful message beautifully worded, and like many people, I have always found it uplifting. I was an adult, however, before I realized what I perceived as the obviousness of the message was not a universal experience. Then again, very few people had the blessing of being raised by somebody like my mother.*

This year for Modranicht** I would like to share with you what I consider the most important lesson I have ever been taught. I’m not sure if my mother has ever spoken these rules, but she lives her life in a way that shows them every day. She is a retired elementary reading teacher, and when she taught parents requested her every year for her dedication to her work, her incredible skills in the classroom, and her love for her students. Now she volunteers for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), standing up for abused and neglected children in the courtroom. She delivers Meals on Wheels, she volunteers with her homeowners association, and somehow she still always has time for me and my sister. And yes, she bakes dern good cookies. There has never been a time in my life when I didn’t know what love meant, and that is because of her. If there is any selfless love in my heart and in my actions it is because I grew up watching her incredible example.

My mother taught me…

Love is a gift, given freely.

It doesn’t wait to be given first. It doesn’t judge “worthiness” before being offered. Love is the assumption when you meet a stranger and a bond to rely on between family members.

Love is unconditional.

It has no “if” or “when.” One of the earliest things I ever remember my mother saying was that she loved me no matter what I did. She might be disappointed in me or worry about me sometimes, but she will always love me no matter what.

Love neither requires nor assumes perfection.

We are all imperfect in our own ways. Loving someone doesn’t mean you have to overlook their faults – we love in spite of (and sometimes because of) each other’s faults. We can encourage people to become better versions of themselves without diminishing our love for them, and anyone who asks for blind love is not worth trusting.

Love may change, but it never gives up.

There is no requirement to love someone in a certain fashion. People can change from acquaintances to friends or they can do the reverse. Romantic love sometimes doesn’t work out the way we thought it would. Love doesn’t mean things will always be the same between people or that we should allow someone to treat us without respect. It does mean despite the pain and tumult of change, we can continue to hope for peace and understanding instead of retribution. The world will not become a better place when those who do evil are punished; it will become a better place when those who do evil change for the better.

Love is not a reflection of the loved, but a reflection of the one who gives love.

We don’t give love because someone “deserves” it. Love is given because giving love is what good people do.

Thank you, Mom, for teaching me to look at the world through kind eyes. I know I need to work on being more industriously selfless; I do not yet do credit to your example. But I do hope I can pass on to your grandchildren – whenever that happens – the secure and heartfelt love you (and Dad) gave to me. It is the most precious gift a child could receive.

Royal Readers, have a good word for your own mother this Modranicht? We’d love to hear about it! (And so would she! Call you mother and tell her how awesome she is!)

Blessed Yule to all! I’ll be off next week, but will return in the New Year with more musings from the Realm.

* And my father! My dad is equally amazing in his own way, but this is Mother’s Night, not Father’s Night (which, er, Heathenry doesn’t have). So sorry Daddy, but this one’s for Mom.

** Modranicht, or “Mother Night” is celebrated the night before Yule begins. So this year, 2011, it’s on Wednesday the 21st. In Heathenry on Modranicht we celebrate our mothers and our female ancestry. I find this very appropriate because in Heathen lore, unlike most Pagan faiths, the sun – named Sól, as in “solstice” – is a woman, and so the next day at the solstice we celebrate the return of a powerful female who brings life to the world.

+ Featured Image: The Wolves Pursing Sól and Mani by Hélène Adeline Guerber. At Ragnorak, the wolf Fenris and his children will devour the sun and moon…