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POV: Is love really all you need?

POV: Is love really all you need?By Jill Bennett

“Love conquers all.” This 2200-year-old phrase, attributed to Virgil, feels like a platitude that BCE Romans would graffiti onto a wall or use as a bumper sticker on a chariot, no doubt steered by Russell Crowe in full armor and sandals, racing around the Coliseum. It certainly doesn’t feel up to the task of conquering the very real issues we see each day in our work and in the news.

As tempting as it is to dismiss “Omnia vincit amor” as a throwaway phrase, let’s instead ask the question, "What is Love?”*

I fully acknowledge that I overuse the word love. Ask me to define it and I’ll rattle off hikes in the spring along a creek, snowcapped mountains against a gorgeous blue spring sky, and cherry pie a la mode. My typical response to a colleague sharing a file or sending a chat is a heart emoji. (Caveat, I was raised in the Midwest by parents of Scandinavian stock, which means no public declarations of love for family, friends, dogs, or country. There’s a one liner about a Scandinavian who loved his partner so much that he almost told them.) The problem with these ambiguous definitions is that they obscure the real meaning of love.

First and foremost, Virgil's love is a verb—not an emotion. And verbs are actions. Every day we are confronted with hate speech, polarized political debate, neighbors shooting neighbors for asking them to stop firing an AR-15 style rifle so their baby can sleep and shooting lost teenagers and Uber drivers for being on their property. Opinions and propaganda packaged as news, xenophobia, homophobia, and elected officials who feign that ethics matter all burrow their way into our souls and leave us exhausted, tired, and angry—sometimes so much that we are tempted to perpetuate the hate. Can love conquer mendacity, antipathy, loathing and fear? Short answer: It better. Because it’s what we’ve got.

So, what is love? It’s the work you do every day that makes our world less hateful, more honest, and creates joy. Love is voting. Love is knocking on doors to get the vote out. Love is sharing what you have with people who have even less. Love is dedicating your career to clean air, educating children and adults, and uplifting people of all colors, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, abilities, experiences, and backgrounds. Love is putting people before politics. Love is putting people before profit. Love is teaching people to overcome their fear of what is different. You’ve heard this theme from me before, that your work doesn’t simply embody love—it is love. And just as hate can breed hate, join me in creating a world where love generates love. How do we do this? It starts by creating a community of nonprofits that truly care for and support each other.

The questions we repeatedly ask at UNA are, “what do our nonprofits need?” and “how can we help them thrive?” (If you have ideas, please send them my way!) We’ve launched our Conversations and Coffee series to help you create friendships among nonprofit professionals who are committed to helping each other. (That’s really the goal of these meetings—who doesn’t need friendship or a little extra help?) We’ve launched a Nonprofit Community Calendar for you to share your events, celebrations, and more. If you love nonprofits the way we do, join us for a Conversation and Coffee, post your upcoming events, and remember to show up for each other.


*If your mind immediately went to the oh-so-cringe-worthy Saturday Night Live skit with the Night at the Roxbury guys, I feel your pain. It’s hard to get those dance moves out of one’s head.