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How Giving Love Makes You Feel Loved

Did the whole family remember to give warm greetings and farewells?

With that question settled, everyone agreed good-naturedly to undertake the resolution to give warm greetings and farewells — but would we all remember to do it, without nagging? I didn't want a resolution meant to boost our feelings of affection to turn into a source of conflict.

Somewhat to my surprise, we all quickly began to keep this resolution (well, most of the time). As a consequence, several times per day we have moments of real connection among all members of our family. For instance, instead of letting my older daughter yell, "I'm leaving!" before she disappears out the door to walk to school, I call, "Wait, wait!" — and we all hurry to give her a real hug and a real goodbye.

Giving warm greetings and farewells feels like a natural thing to do, and the more we do it, the more it becomes a habit — which, of course, means that we all expect it now and feel annoyed or hurt if a warm acknowledgment doesn't come.

One night, as soon as I walked through the door, I rushed to scribble a note to myself (if I don't write down important things the moment they occur to me, I never think of them again). As I was writing this crucial note with the stub of a red crayon on the back of a school notice about an outbreak of strep throat, my younger daughter marched over to me with a scowl and called me on breaking my own resolution.

"Hey! You didn't give me a warm greeting!" she said bitterly. "When I said 'Hi,' you just said 'Hi' and rushed right by me. You didn't pay any attention to me at all."

"Oh, honey," I said, kneeling down. "I'm sorry. I wanted to write myself a note before I forgot something. That's why I seemed distracted. But now I want to give you a great big hug!" She allowed herself to be hugged, then skipped back to her game.

It's no surprise: Studies show that we're much more likely to feel close to a family member who often expresses affection than to one who rarely does. While it's nice to say the words "I love you," sometimes it's fitting and more meaningful to express that thought without words.

My spiritual master is St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the great French saint who died in 1897 and is known for her "Little Way" — her way of achieving great virtue through small, ordinary actions and as part of everyday life. For me, one of St. Thérèse's most haunting observations is "It isn't enough to love; we must prove it."

In the course of everyday life, I sometimes find it hard to spot the opportunities to prove my love, even to the members of my beloved family. The resolution to "give warm greetings and farewells" is a manageable, pleasant, and effective reminder for us all to give "proofs of love." If you want to be happier at home, don't just feel it. Show it.

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