I live in a suburban neighborhood, and around the corner from my subdivision is a church. It's not a church I attend, but since I pass by it every day I can't help but read whatever signs are put out. Sometimes the postings are spiritual, sometimes humorous, but almost always thoughtful.
Because Valentine's Day is approaching, last week the church put out a banner that says "Love Never Fails." Whatever your religious denomination (or even if you don't have one), that is a nice sentiment. I took a picture of the banner today. It was clearly legible, even with the weak sun of a February morning in Michigan.
Toward the end of last week through Saturday, however, snow and wind had caused the sign to collapse in on itself. It was still rooted in the ground, but folded down in the middle, impossible to clearly read. Someone from the church must have straightened it in time for Sunday morning services.
At first I thought the crumpled sign was ironic. Love may never fail, but a plastic banner certainly does. Once the banner had been fixed, however, I realized that was the point. Love really doesn't fail, and neither does any other ideal. The application of the ideal, though, may forever be a work in progress.
Take customer service. No one (hopefully) ever thinks it's okay not to provide great customer service. Along with my employer, Stewart Title, I am sure every business considers assisting clients a round-the-clock, 100% endeavor. No one seeks to provide customer satisfaction only 23 hours a day or 90% of the time.
My favorite author, Andrew Vachss, says, "Children know the truth. Love is not an emotion; love is a behavior." He's right. Despite having a principle, whether it's love or customer service, action needs to be taken. Phone calls and emails must be returned. Smiles must be met with smiles. Work must be performed correctly... Banners must be straightened when they are tousled by wind and snow. And that's ok- That doesn't take away from the principle at all. Because an ideal needs a helping hand doesn't detract from it. On the contrary, it's active work that embodies a principle and gives it practical life. Without that work, the idea behind it is meaningless. It's not enough to say, "I care about you" or "I'm pleased to work with you." It's the hug, the sacrifice, the sweat that gives meaning to those words... and to words like "Love Never Fails."