Where Did You Learn Love From: A Social Experiment

I consider myself the Queen of questions. To me, everyone has a story yet so many stories go untold. I find joy in getting to know most people beyond surface-level interactions and meaningless small talk.

Every week, I try to find an intense question to ask myself and those around me. It keeps my mind flowing and it allows me to have intimate moments with myself. This weeks question was centered around love and where we learned it from.

One of my favorite quotes regarding love is by Ms. Iyanla Vanzant. She says:

“You don’t get to tell people how to love. you get to choose whether or not to participate in the way they love.”

Love is universal and I don’t think any of us would exist without it during our lifetimes. We all show love differently and even when people harm us or show love in a crappy way, it’s so important to recognize that the behavior is rooted from somewhere. Yes, we were all brought into this world technically by a parent who birthed us but that doesn’t mean we were all raised on love. Some people were raised on survival and tend to show love based off of that. I believe the more we try to understand how a person expresses love, we can better understand them or at minimum, empathize with them. The good and the bad. But where do we learn love from? Is it from a person? An event? Childhood?

I decided to ask 15 people. Some I’ve worked with, some I’ve known for years and some whom I was raised with.

The Question: Where or who did you learn love from?

“My dad because he was so calm and he loved me so much. He took me everywhere he went.”

- Georgia Jennings, 87

“My paternal grandmother, even until today, she makes a point to answer my calls and always check up on me. She taught me love growing up, she still showed me how she loved his kids even though they weren’t hers.When I found out that my dad wasn’t my dad, she insured me that she still loved me no matter what.She would take care of anyone no matter how they treated her. That is strength to me because the more that I read the Bible, now I get why I was with her every Sunday in that church.She’s just always had a big heart. She showed me love first and taught me how to be kind to people and be love no matter what. Even when my uncle was murdered, “I can’t be mad at who murdered them because it’s not there fault either”. That’s how I knew what love really was. “

— Samori B, 21

“My parents and my family fasho. My parents have been together for over 20 years and I’ve never seen them argue. In the streets, my dad may seem scary to a lot of people but when he would come home every night, he would have the utmost respect for my mother. He never raised at his voice at her. He loves her. It was always love. They taught me what conditional love is.They were an example of it.That’s why I’m so family oriented till this day.”

— Ramon, 23

“My granddaddy, he was the only one that was never mean to me and he never yelled at me, he always made me feel good and like I was smart when everyone else would make fun of me or say I was stupid. He also used to feed everyone in the neighborhood and he let people live in his house, back yard, garage or just anywhere that he had space just so they could have somewhere to sleep. he always took care of all of his grandkids and even though he made some mistakes with his kids he always seemed like wanted to make it up for it by helping take care of their kids and he also took care of kids that weren’t even his. He never wanted anyone to seem like they didn’t belong and I know that’s where I get it from. He would give his last to people and I seen that with my own eyes and he always wanted me to have whatever he had. He used to let me come down at midnight every night when we lived with him before he got ready for work and give me carrot cake or a cinnamon roll and then when it was time for him to go I would sneak back into to bed. I miss him so much he never judged me.”

— Tammy, 38

“At every stop that I can remember in life until 2013 my grandmother shared advice, called us, picked us up, took us out, bought us things, laughed with us, told us to read, told us to pray, prayed for us, allowed us to spend the night, corrected us, hugged us, kissed us (“Yuck!” I thought as a kid), licked her finger to rub dirt from our face (“Double yuck!” I thought as a kid), complimented the shape of my “perfectly round” big head, spoke in tongues from joy while listening to my dreadful piano playing, happily woke us up before the sun did to attend another boring service, explained how she heroically saved my life as a baby, and shared a legendary birthday with me for 22 years on this bluish greenish planet before my final kiss on her hospital bed. That taste of love (mixed with what my mother and father could show) is what gave birth to a following, powerful experience of love.”

— Derean, 29

“For me my mom was my whole family for a very long time because we lived in Maryland she bought me valentine day gifts and would do just because I was thinking of you gifts to show her love. She always spoke life into all of us constantly telling us we were beautiful and loved so very much. So I would say she taught me my worth which help me to develop the feeling of love in my romantic relationships and how I should feel when being with another person”

— Briane, 25

“I would have to say from my Nana. Of course i had my parents but love is optional in my opinion. You choose to love and with parents, they don’t really have a choice. I’m lucky enough to say that and know my parents but at the same time the first time i recognized love is from my grandmother. It was unconditional and she explained what it meant to me. I never knew what the term meant. She would always tell me that no matter what i say or do, I wouldn’t have to worry about her never loving me. I remember messing up her computer by taking it apart and accidentally breaking it. When i broke it , i thought she wouldn’t love me anymore. She responded by crying and telling me that that’s not how love works. Even thinking about the day that she passes, I don’t know how i can reconcile with that. I always remember the times that we had and how she made me feel”

— Brandon, 30

“My Godmom because when I was growing up, I just remember her showing me so much love, whether that was taking care of me, taking me out to the park or beach she truly just invested so much love into me I felt like her own kid. She helped my mom out a lot because my mom would work and Devon would stay home and watch me. If it wasn’t for her I truly wouldn’t know how to love someone or be so giving”

— Cielo , 26

“I learned love from my mama and daddy I’m pretty sure especially my mom that girl! She loves so hard and she loves her kids so much to the point she Sacrifices herself so watching her love on us and my dad taught me love and my siblings too everyone in my family loves hard. I can definitely say I grew up in a loving home environment. My mom would leave me lil notes when I woke up sometimes with like a cinnamon roll or in my lunch she’d write me a note and give me cards that were so sweet honestly she did the smallest lil things that made me feel so loved she’s so thoughtful and that’s why I love thoughtful people so much.”

— Raina, 28

“I think I would say my grandmother. She was always there for me and all of us. She makes everything better and always kept the family together.”

— Devante, 26

“I learned love from my parents. Growing up in my household my parents always instilled love in both my siblings and I. I grew up being told I was loved on the regular basis. Before we go to bed and when ever we leave each other “I love you” is always our last words to each other.”

— Ashley, 24

“My mom. Since I was a kid my mom has ALWAYS been there for me even when my hard headed ass didn’t listen and even went against her at some points because of my clouded judgment . Even through all that she loved me with every single ounce in her. And it’s amazing to me because it’s this easy for her to do this for all 4 of her children . To this day my mom is still almost protective but it’s in a way that’s more adult like cause I’m no longer a kid … she is the reason I am the way I am . Emotionally . She showed me love and instilled it in me. Forever. Through thick and thin. Love .”

— -Tye, 22

“I would say I picked up the concept of love from my grandparents”

— Keith, 40

“I learned love from my dad, brother, mom, and some friends. Dad because growing up he was both my parents and there was never a moment where I did not feel wanted or cherished by him. He dedicated all his time to Oscar and I. My brother because when my dad finally found someone and had to also make a life and he stepped up and made sure I always also felt love though in a different way. He always made sure that I knew that we might not have what other kids had but we had each other. Mom because though she wasn’t there for my childhood she has been there 100 for my little brothers. I’ve seen her sacrifices. Friends also taught me love because whenever I’ve needed someone to lean on they have been there and whenever I might have not felt loved or appreciated by my family they stepped up to make sure I knew they were there and I could always count on there families also .”

— -Vanessa, 25

“My grandma and my mom. It was more of a lead by example type of thing.
To me, love has an endless range and can be expressed in the smallest of actions. So watching them interact with family, friends, or even strangers they always were so gracious, and willing to go the extra mile for someone that they may not even know. It showed me that, that minute you take out of your day to lend hand or do an act of love and kindness to help someone, can make a world of difference in another person’s life. That’s what it’s all about, not what you have or can do, but what you can do to help and inspire others.”

— Wiz, 26

As for me, I had a lot of love growing up. More than I could ever ask for from my mother. However, if I was on my last breath and I had to name one person on earth who I knew loved my unconditionally, I would say my grandmother. She is not like most grandmothers at all. She’s a diva, a “chatty kathy”, witty, fashionable, sassy, the opposite of domestic, hilarious, loves to run the streets and very young-minded. Growing up, she never cooked, never taught me to cook and she wasn’t super affectionate. She’s also very nonchalant but that never made me question her love. I always knew it was there.

She calls me every single day and leaves me a voicemail. When I used to get in trouble, she wouldn’t punish me she would just pray over me. I never recall her cursing at me growing up or making me feel small. She is my biggest fan, my longest roommate, and my favorite gossip girl. She also taught me that you have to let things go and keep smiling. She says when you smile at the world, the world will always smile back.

She is the only person earth that really understands me (and my dramatics). When I think of the word love, she pops up in my mind. I always tell her “I wish everyone in the world loved me like you do” because the love always moves me to tears. It’s the strongest thing we have. It never fades.

As for later in life, one of the loves that has kept me going for the past 5 years is the love I learned from my little sister that God gave me later in life. Her family took me in when I was in college. They fed me, clothed me, housed me and gave me more love than one could imagine. We look nothing alike, not even close but she always refer to me as her big sister. She always made me feel needed and that I was doing something right. I didn’t have to much of anything to impress her. She hated when I even offered to buy her something or offer to pick her up from school.

My sweet Melak taught me such a rare kind of love. If you look at our DNA, we’re just two strangers but to her, I’m her sister and that means more to me than anything.

I guess my grandma was right, love is an action. Love is what you show to someone, not in what you say.

Just writing what's in my notes and in my heart.

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