"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
September 4, 2014
Love More, Care Less
by Hannah Bird

I have an aloe vera plant. Or rather, I have an aloe vera shrub. It comes with a story. Twenty years ago my cousin, Jan, was given a tiny aloe vera start in a small pot. Being Jan, she raised it and transferred it to ever bigger pots. When it got huge she separated it into more pots and raised them. That is how I came to own an aloe vera shrub so big that my arms donít fit around the pot.

When I grow up, I want to be like Jan. This is a little awkward since she is my younger cousin but I still think it is important to have goals. Jan had the good sense to marry Russ who has become a brother and dearest friend. Then they proceeded to have the most adorable, charming and wild little children that I have seen since my own.

I love those children so much that if I loved their parents just the tiniest bit less I might have to steal them. Janís house is a place of joy, good humor and tremendous love and learning.

Bringing home a piece of her home was a gift. I was determined to keep my little corner of heaven lush and green. So I looked up the instructions for the proper care of aloe plants. I followed the advice faithfully. I moved it to catch and miss the sun as directed. I watered it on the recommended schedule. I dusted the leaves. I picked out new starts that would drain the roots of energy.

In response to my fervent care my aloe turned grey and mushy. The harder I tried, the more green spires turned to grey mush.

I had killed it. I ruined my little piece of heaven.

I told myself unkind things. Here was one more thing that I had ruined. Here was another failure, a sign of how far the distance was between who I am and who I wish I were. Unable to face the reality of getting rid of my failure, I dragged the pot of grey mush onto the back deck and pretended that it had never happened.

I was sad. That warmth and true love that follow everywhere Jan and Russ go had not bloomed in my house. The easy nurturing that is felt by everyone visiting their home had not come to visit mine. Instead my fussing attention killed it. I wanted to take care of it in the worst way and I did.

We never use the back deck. I cannot imagine the thought process that led to building it. There are no steps to the yard. It is a little redwood jail cell off our kitchen, But one day, I stepped out onto the deck and I saw that my aloe had returned. It was emerald green and as bright and glossy as it had been at Janís. Months of inattention had save my cherished aloe bush.

I laughed. For years I have said, ďLove more. Care less.Ē We think that if we love weíll care. We are good at caring. We fuss. We correct. We worry. We give helpful bits of wisdom that are not wise or helpful. We find out that people have challenges and we add to them by explaining how they can fix them. And when offense is taken, we are hurt. Itís just that we care so much.

Our caring can become a gift. But it can also be a weapon. It is a weight we make others carry. It is the tool we use to assert a role. It is justification for whatever follows.

People tell my beautiful sister-in-law that if she would eat whole grains and veggies her Crohnís disease will improve. That advice would literally kill her. The fact that they care about her makes their care a greater priority than her actual well-being. They care, so they must do something.

Our caring is about us. Not about those upon whom we foist it. We are uncomfortable watching things go awry, and our caring gives us permission to grab the wheel. We do things to our kids, families, friends, and those in our stewardships in the name of caring that we would not even do to someone we disliked.

I laughed because I knew this once. But my aloe came to remind me. I love it. I thank it for being here. It brings me joy. It feels again like a little patch of heaven. It is a token of the easy huge love that I learn from Jan and Russ. It is a reminder of happy moments in their company.

I will do anything my enormous aloe needs. But I love it first. It is a joy. It makes me smile. I do not mistake fussing over it for loving. There is a difference between really loving and caring in its place.

My children are growing up. I went to all the trouble to have six kids. But four of them were away this summer. I watch them go out into the wild world. I am scared. I want to fuss. I want to weed and trim. I want to push and tend. I care so much that I am breathless sometimes at night. But beginning a life is heavy enough without the weight of my nervous care.

I will try to remember to love more and care less. When they need me, I will be there. But it will be their need and not my care that moves me. But mostly, I will love. I will appreciate. I will compliment their growth. I will smile when I hear their stories.

They can grow their own wild wonders. They will come and go from my drafty old house now. But my aloe and I will still be here, a little patch of heaven and all the love they need.

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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