The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the smell. It was almost impossible to notice anything else until smiling, tiny faces began popping up from behind the crib railings. And then just as quickly as the smell of 13 dirty diapers that hadn’t been changed since 7 p.m. the night before had come, it seemed to vanish.The smell no longer mattered and was replaced with an immense feeling of love and overwhelming happiness. Over the next several months, as I volunteered in an orphanage in Quito, Ecuador, my love for those children grew. The longer I worked there, the more I began to notice that as new volunteers were introduced to the children, the reaction on both sides was always the same: abounding love. I began to wonder how those small children who the world had already been so cruel to, who knew the sting of abandonment & had nothing of their own (even the shoes on their feet would be given to a smaller child when they outgrew them) could possibly love so effortlessly. When I showed up to that orphanage, they did not care if my hair had been beautifully styled or if I was sporting another ponytail & going on day three of dry shampoo. It didn’t matter if I was in designer jeans or a pair from a thrift store. The amount of zeroes in my bank account was of no importance to them. When I walked through the door each morning, they saw me for exactly who I was: a person, just the same as them. They knew that I was a flawed human being without all of the answers and still they knew that as a child of God, I was deserving of kindness and love.

The love I learned about in that orphanage I have experienced in just a few other relationships. More often than not, we experience and extend love through the sentiment “I love you even though you…” This is a different kind of love, a love that seems to have strings attached where someone states their love for another person despite the fact that they ______ (and then fill in the blank). For example, you might fill in the blank when speaking to your friends and family members with a variety of endings: I love you even though you cheated on a test, were unkind to me, ignored my phone calls, have chosen to smoke, or decided to stop going to church. Sadly, the possibilities for ending that sentence seem to be somewhat endless. Isn’t it interesting how we can be expressing our love for someone and then tack on a caveat at the end? When we want to truly love someone, a friend or family member, I believe that pure love comes as we simply just choose to love them.

Over the past few years I have learned that love is a very powerful gift, and it is one that God gives without stipulation. I have tried to make a point of letting those people in my life know that I love them and I love them just because they are in my life. I think it is important to learn to love someone simply because they are a child of God and leave it at that. No one wants to be reminded that they have flaws, disappointments, and faults because they are already aware of it. A parent doesn’t love one child more because they didn’t color on the walls, just as they don’t love the child who did scribble on the walls any less. When we choose to love someone, it shouldn’t matter what length their skirt is, how many times you’ve heard them swear or the number of Sundays they find themselves sitting in a pew. Our love shouldn’t have strings attached to it. I didn’t love my students any more if they went to the same church as me, liked the same sports teams, or never found themselves in the middle of a playground scuffle. It doesn’t matter if my family chooses to live the same way that I do or if they want to live the complete opposite. I think that there is power in finishing the sentence at the word “you” and not reminding the recipient that you love them even if they disappoint you in some way. I love you. Period. The end. That doesn’t mean that we should abandon our own standards or that we shouldn’t surround ourselves with others who have similar standards; it simply means that we all have our agency and when others make choices you disagree with, it is important to try to use your agency to choose love and kindness.

In today’s world everyone seems to be so hung up on being right in every aspect of their life that they forget that by deciding that they are right they have also decided that those who disagree with them are wrong. Then they justify that judgement by deciding to love those who disagree with them EVEN THOUGH they are “wrong.” The children in that orphanage didn’t make snap judgements about the choices I made and then decide the amount of love to extend to me. They looked past my insecurities, failures, and appearance and saw me as one of God’s children. I think that the type of love that our Savior wants us to learn to have is love that comes without restriction or judgement which is the way He loves. He loved the saint just as much as he loved the sinner. When Christ was hanging on the cross he didn’t use his final words to remind the people of their specific sins. He didn’t announce to the guards that He loved them EVEN THOUGH they beat Him—nor did he tell the people that He loved them EVEN THOUGH they spit on Him & mocked Him. Instead, as he hung upon the cross he showed pure, unfettered love by asking God to forgive all of mankind. He set the example for us to follow of loving our neighbor because they are children of God, and in the same pure way, God chooses to love us because we are His.

John 13:34 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you.”

 

Sophia Daybell graduated from Brigham Young University in 2014 with a degree in Elementary Education after a summer service trip to Quito, Ecuador, in 2012 inspired her to change her major. She spent three years working as a 5th grade teacher in Santaquin, Utah, before moving to Savannah, Georgia. She and her husband were married in the Jordan River Temple in 2014. Her husband is an Officer in the United States Army, and while being an army wife has been an adjustment and come with its own set of challenges, it has also come with plenty of blessings and opportunities. She worked in the school district in Savannah until she and her husband were blessed with a baby boy in December 2017. Originally from the East Coast, she is happy to be back where the air is warm, the beach is close, and southern hospitality abounds. She enjoys everything from spontaneous road trips, to makeup, to football (go Carolina Panthers!), enjoying a good meal with good company, and spending time with her family.

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