It has been ten years since the day I taught my family how to love … and they never forgot it. You see I was weeks from delivering my third child and my belly was a big as a barn. It was becoming more and more difficult to pick up around the house, especially going up and down those blasted stairs. Each sock on the floor, felt like a slap across my face in addition to a stab in my back as I bent over to pick it up. Do they not love me? Do they not realize how much pain they are causing me? My rhetorical thoughts were met with an answer in my heart. No, they don’t know how much pain they are causing you. How could they? They have never carried around 20% of their body weight in their belly before.

An idea dawned on me… a simply delicious idea! I went to our hall closet and pulled out three backpacks: papa bear size, medium bear size, and baby bear size. I quickly calculated 20% of my husband’s 200 lb body weight was forty pounds. Then I did the math on my daughter and son. With a smirk on my face and a twinkle in my eye I retrieved some bricks and books. After I loaded them in backpacks, I headed to the bathroom scale. I weighed each backpack carefully adjusting the weight to reflect their 20% load.

Sitting on the couch with three weighted backpacks at my feet, I waited for my family to return home.

“How was your day hun?” “What’s for dinner Mommy?” “Can I have a friend over?” Their voices spilled into the living room as I heard a brief case, books, a sweatshirt, workout bag, lunch kit, and mail drop.

“Come into the living room. I have a game for us to play,” I said in my sweetest tempting voice. Pointing to the three backpacks I explained that I wanted each to put one on in front and I would secure it by tying the straps together in the back so that it wouldn’t fall out. “You can each get to know how Mother feels.” They agreed.

Standing in front of me giggling at each other I snapped their photo. Then I told them the game begins with them cleaning the house, starting with the things they have dropped in the entry way. As they headed out of sight I added, “Then get the Cheerios under the kitchen table, the socks on the stairs, the crayons in the playroom… and on and on I detailed their clean up list.”

It wasn’t ten minutes until I heard “Mommy this isn’t a fun game.” And from hubby, “this is really killing my back.” Did I let them off the hook: no way! The rest of the night I made them clean the house (folding clothes and unloading the dishwasher), taking stuff in and out of the car (through the bucket back seat), and picking up a spilled jigsaw puzzle.

Miserable, each one was totally miserable when I called them in for dinner. I explained that the backpacks could come off after dinner. I watched as each sat uncomfortably in the chair, trying to cram their bellies under the table. Red faced and moaning, they listened as I explained love… love that is an action not a feeling, love that always begins with identification. If you want to love someone, you must begin by identifying with them so you truly know how they feel. Then you will know how to act toward them. “How can each of you love me?” I asked.

The ideas flowed: “I can pick up my Thomas Trains and put them on the train table.” “I can pull the car out of the garage so you can get in easier.” “I can pick up my clothes and put them away.”

That day birthed a practice in our home. If we see someone that needs love, we start with trying to identify with them. This new year we started without electricity for thirty-six hours, freezing in our house, wearing coats, hats, and mittens identifying with the homeless, to see how God would lead us to love them. Once we took turns eating alone, isolated from the rest of the family so as to identify with an elderly relative who was all alone.

What are your thoughts on teaching love?