For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed musicals, probably because my mother, who long ago tap danced and sang on the stoops and stages of Baltimore for coins, often told me she felt almost drawn to those lively extravaganzas and loved them fiercely. I guess that why I had no choice but to accompany her as her “date,” standing in for Dad, who always paid the bill — and always refused to go.
During one show that I’ll never forget, Stephanie Mills “let loose” as she performed “Home,” the final song from the fabulous musical “The Wiz” during its first U.S. tour and stop in Motown.
As she reminisced about the home she hoped and prayed to one day see again — one she once took for granted, I couldn’t help but think about my own home — one which, like Dorothy’s, was “a place where there’s love overflowing.” Home was even more to me: a place of comfort, safety, solitude, laughter, music, support and joy — unspeakable joy. And it was impossible for anyone to change my mind or alter my fervent belief that there simply was “no place like home.”
But as I grew older, I realized that when thoughts of home arose for others, they were sometimes very different — more troubling, ominous, full of sorrow and evoking almost paralyzing images and sensations of fear, pain and potential death. I didn’t have a name for what I would catch glimpses of from time to time as I became taller along the path to manhood. Today I realize that in those homes, domestic violence and the diminishing, destructive and deadly behaviors and beliefs more commonly associated with it, had taken over their lives and claimed a prominent place in their homes.
Each year as the U.S. observes National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I cannot help but think how blessed and fortunate I was — it was an unmerited grace that was given to me and my family for reasons I’ll never know. But life doesn’t have to continue along tragic paths of so-called love which in truth are nothing more than dead-end streets ripe and ready for the repetitive cycle of abuse that keeps us from becoming the person we were meant to be.
I’ve always told my children to be careful that they never become so taken by the allure of material things or the delights of the flesh that they find themselves being drawn into that unfamiliar space and place where they think they’ll be content, even happier than they could’ve imagined, if they are able to love another man or woman more than they love themselves.
Finally, I tell my children something which governs my own life: love has nothing to do with words spoken so easily to others. Love is a verb — an action word. Thus, the actions we with them, for them, with them in mind are not ways to stock up our “you owe me” chests. They’re done without expecting anything in return. Love exudes such tremendous power that it encourages us to celebrate — celebrating the world around us and celebrating those who we profess to love so much so that things like makeovers, revisions, updates or changes become requirements for our love.
Don’t settle for anything less.