Community & Current Events

The true meaning of love

Photography by John Hryniuk Image by: Photography by John Hryniuk Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

The true meaning of love

Craig: At 13, I discovered the meaning of true love. On my first trip to Pakistan, I met a woman making bricks at a kiln. For 12 hours a day, she inhaled coal fumes and wrecked her back to earn two to three dollars. She never saw that money, though, because she was paying off a debt—her husband’s.

You see, the man she loved had become too sick to work, so she took his place until his debt was paid. It was an extraordinary act of love motivated by the worst of circumstances, and it made a box of chocolates seem entirely inadequate.

Marc: Long before my daughter was born, I witnessed the love that is inspired by fatherhood. I was in northern India with an organization that fought child slavery, where I met a group of fathers on a hunger strike. Their children were held as indentured labourers at a local carpet factory.

Refusing food, these dads were clearly enduring incredible physical hardship. They told us, however, that their children were suffering worse conditions inside the factory. Some days later, the dads won. Their children were rescued, and as we watched the emotional family reunions, it was hard to tell who was more emaciated—the kids who had survived months of bonded labour or the fathers who starved themselves to free them.

Craig: Three years ago, I visited Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, in northern Kenya. A farmer arrived at the camp with his eight-year-old son, but refused to release the boy from his embrace. The father explained quietly that he had lost two years’ worth of crops, then set out on foot with his wife and four children to find respite.

Along the way, food was scarce, and despite their begging, one child and then another starved to death. The devastated father was forced to bury three children in shallow graves by the side of the road. Then his wife died, also from hunger. He was so stricken with grief and so emaciated that he wanted to lie down in the dirt and die, too. But he had one child still remaining, a child he could save if he just made it to Dadaab. So he picked up his son and struggled forward. That boy lived because his father’s love and determination trumped starvation and fatigue.

Marc: In our travels, we’ve seen extra-ordinary acts of love in the harshest of conditions—stories that break your heart and fill it at the same time. They are extreme stories of sacrifice that most of us could never imagine when we claim we would do “anything” for our loved ones. But we can show our favourite people—partners, parents, siblings, kids—how much they’re loved without having to endure such depths of despair and hardship.

Truly giving of yourself in unexpected ways is one of the best demonstrations of love. Complete a chore from their to-do list, turn off the ringer (and all other notifications) at supper, or re-prioritize your weekly schedule to include more together time. Visit when it’s inconvenient for you, call when you don’t have time or do something you don’t enjoy because they enjoy it so much. Reach out to an estranged family member or an old friend who may be lonely. Extraordinary efforts in the name of love need not wait for the hardest of times. 

Check out other columns by the Kielburger brothers, including how to handle sibling rivalry.
This story was originally titled "Love, Actually" in the February 2014 issue.
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Community & Current Events

The true meaning of love