Sharing Our Love at the Table

by Ruth Siburt, guest blogger & love warrior

He drew a circle that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win
We drew a circle that took him in
— “Outwitted" by Edwin Markham

“He Taked It All!”  According to family lore, my toddler self wailed this lament whenever one of my brothers emptied a serving dish on its second pass around our dinner table. They say my complaint came with pitiful tears. Tears I shed in spite of the food still piled high on my plate.  

I don’t remember wailing specifically, (obviously a case of selective memory). I do, however, remember watching the food pass from hand to hand with a sense of anxiety. Being the seventh, I was the last child in the lineup. What if my mother miscalculated the number of potatoes she needed to fry?  What if one day my youngest brother handed me an empty dish the first time around? What if I didn’t get my fair share—or even a share at all? 

Thankfully, that never happened. My fears were unfounded, but I see now, how it must have been for me—before I learned about trust. Before I learned about love.

 “Big” people surrounded me at home. Everyone knew more than I. Everyone had more power—more freedom. The brother closest to me was six years my senior and already in school when I made my rather tardy appearance in the family. He knew the mysteries of reading and math and making friends. He knew his place in the scheme of things. At least he knew these things in my version of the world. I felt always one step behind him; always one clue shy of solving the riddles of the “grownup” world. This perceived ignorance on my part made me something of an old soul and a worrier.

While my baby-of-the- family position held the lack-of-savvy disadvantage it also granted me some nifty perks. My parents, for example, having raised six other children had mastered this parenting gig. And perhaps best of all (after I figured out the food thing) having three older brothers still living at home was definite advantage. Once I started school and got a taste of the larger world (bullies for example), I learned how to draw my big brothers like a knife. Generally I only had to do that once per enemy. Bit by bit, I learned more things about love and trust.

Then when I was eight, one of my brothers rocked my world. He fell in love with a dark haired girl and asked her to marry him. She said “Yes.” Of course she did. Who could deny this hazel-eyed, handsome eighteen-year- old boy? This brother who balanced me on his hands and gave me rides to music lessons and teased me unmercifully was an irresistible force. Up popped my worrier self. If my brother loved this girl so much would he have love leftover for me? 

Fortunately, Mom recognized my dilemma. (Don’t ask me how she knew. It’s a mom thing, I guess.) We were not a family for candlelit dinners. But one evening when there was, by some miracle, only Mom and me at home she brought out three tapered candles and set them up on the table. She turned out the dining room light and lit the candle in the middle. It flickered prettily casting yellow circles against the wall.

“See how this tiny flame pushes back the darkness?” Mom said. 

Yes, I could see it.

“Love is like that.” Mom picked up the lit candle and touched its wick to another.

“What happened when this candle shared some of its flame?” she asked.

Well, that was obvious; even to me the step-behind girl. “There’s more light,” I said.

“Very good! But what about the first candle? Did it lose any of its light?”

“No.” I admitted

“And if we light another candle?” She handed me the third candle. “What will happen then?”

I touched my candle’s wick to the flame. “There is even more light!” 

“That’s how love works, too.” She said. “Sharing love with someone new doesn’t lessen love.” 

 I set my candle down beside the first. “It multiplies it.” 

How fortunate I am to have had such gentle people to teach me about love and trust.  When I see the anger manifested in the world, I can’t help thinking that in some ways these angry people are a much more frightened and worried version of my young self. Are we really, as a people, so afraid that there will be nothing left in the bowl for us or no flame left on our candles if we share our love? What if we entertained the possibility of caring for those outside our sphere, even for the angry and fearful ones, even for the bullies, even for our enemies? What would happen then? Would the bowl hold more than enough food? Would the light shine brighter and warmer?

Oh, how I hope it might be so.

Oh, how I dare to hope.

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My friend Ruth is a gentle and beautiful soul who writes about how the flame of love grows as it pushes back the darkness. She is talented, gracious, and definitely not a “step behind girl.” I love her giant heart. Thank you, Ruth, for sharing your story.