That awkward moment when “spreading the love” backfires

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Ever observe society from an outsider’s point of view and get totally disturbed by what you see?

I usually have these moments when I least expect it (thanks, brain) and quickly become astounded by the lack of joy, happiness, and love in the world.

With all of the running around, consumerism, and fear-based marketing going on, there isn’t much room for love in our culture. But that didn’t stop me from doing what I could to show my 6th grade peers the power of love.

And, yep, it totally backfired.

Where is the love?

Even as a kid, I was troubled by how messed up the world was because I felt there was nothing I could do about it.

Halfway through my sixth-grade year I was already noticing the desperation for popularity, the fakeness and bullying, and the marginalization of the kids who were different. I became so disturbed watching my peers lose their elementary school innocence that I had to do something about it.

Around the same time, the Black Eyed Peas’ first hit, Where is the Love? was the token over-played song on the radio and I was deeply touched by the lyrics.

Because I mean, where WAS the love?

If I could only ask everyone at school this question, they would realize there would be no more love left if they continued on the same path. And then they would stop all the silly things they are doing and go back to loving and accepting people like they used to in elementary school.

The the music video for the song came out and I was blown away. Throughout the entire video, the Black Eyed Peas drove around their city posting these stickers with a question mark on them to street signs, people’s cars, etc to get folks to ask themselves where the love was.

Where is the love symbol

I thought it was absolutely brilliant and I wanted in on it.

So, I did my best to re-create the symbol in a word document with several 3×3 squares that said, “Where is the love?” with a big question mark in the center. The design was flawless.

I diligently cut out a hundred or so of these squares and showed up extra early to school with my neighbor, who agreed to help me with my plan, albeit reluctantly.

After I finished shoving square after square into random lockers, people started arriving. I sat conspicuously on a bench, heart fluttering with excitement as I watched my peers open their lockers. They were going to take one look at this note and immediately change all their backwards priorities.

This was going to be the day this whole school gets turned around.

But nobody seemed to be thinking critically about where the love was.

They would open their locker, the note would fall out, and they would shove it in their binder without a glance. Other people didn’t even notice the note.

The last students I observed were two boys with neighboring lockers. They saw the notes, turned to each other, and said, “The fuck is this??”

I was appalled. These boys were only in sixth grade and are already saying the F-word! This was not at all turning out how I hoped. In fact, I had less hope now than when I started.

When class began that morning, everyone was speculating about who shoved the notes into the lockers. They were calling it a violation of privacy and agreed that it was such a stupid thing to do.

That’s when I decided I was never going to tell a soul what I had done.

But that’s okay, because my neighbor told everyone for me behind my back.

By the end of the day, everyone knew I was the one who shoved those pieces of paper asking where the love was in their lockers. It was humiliating.

Luckily, I had some nice church going friends who didn’t quite reassure me that it wasn’t a stupid idea, but they didn’t stop being my friend either and by that point I just took what I could get.

Embracing the love

Spreading the love totally backfired on that fateful day in 6th grade.

But as I reflect on this story and other life experiences, I’ve realized it usually takes a lot more than a piece of paper shoved into a locker for most people to realize, let alone think about, where the love is.

Instead, I’ve shifted my focus to Ghandi’s powerful advice to be the change I want to see in the world.

All I do now is think critically whenever someone shoves a note in my metaphorical locker and take some time to ponder, “Where IS the love?”

And then I embrace it.


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