By Lana Turnbull
What is the last thing you say when your spouse and kids leave the house? For many of us, it’s “I love you,” immediately followed by “be careful,” which is another way of saying “I love you.” One of my Delta cousins once told me his mom’s universal directive when he was headed outside was “watch out for snakes,” but that’s a whole other story. We say it before we hang up the phone. We say it before we go to sleep. It’s like a verbal talisman that beyond its intrinsic definition serves as an invisible shield of protection, without which chaos might ensue.
The danger comes when saying I love you becomes automatic, it doesn’t have the same effect. It feels less meaningful, despite the sincerity of our emotion. Love is a basic human need, every bit as crucial to our survival as safety, food and shelter. So how do we make sure we are conveying the depths of feelings we have for the people we care about in a way that transcends language? The answer is…with our actions. As my mom loved to remind me, “actions speak louder than words.”
It’s simple really. Expressing our love non-verbally doesn’t have to be some grand gesture or an expensive gift, it can be communicated through little acts of consideration and kindness, like picking up your spouse’s favorite treat, that wasn’t even on the grocery list, just because you know how much they will enjoy it. It could be putting an encouraging note in your child’s lunchbox when you know they have a hard day ahead of them, or dropping off lunch for a friend who is stuck at work.
Some of us cook as an expression of love. One of my very favorite aunts was famous for her lacy oatmeal cookies. If you were headed back to college or about to go on vacation, she would show up with a Quaker Oats box of oatmeal cookies for the road.
Showing your love can be something as basic as offering a warm hug, just at the right moment, giving someone an overdue pat on the back or sharing a knowing smile.
I’m not suggesting that it’s not important to say I love you, but our actions are how we back that up, how we punctuate it and make the words ring true. What we do tells those we love more about how we feel than words alone can ever say.