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Love 101: It’s important to lead with love

I rarely write someone else’s words, but once in awhile, I do repeat a column that I have written, because it fits what I am trying to say in another phase of my life.

For that reason, I am going to paraphrase a column that I wrote Sept. 4, 2001. 

The message is totally appropriate these days, where nothing to me seems normal or right.

As long as I taught school, Dr. Leo Buscaglia was first my mentor, and later, my friend.  I may not ever have become an educator had Leo not guided me. 

Some called him “The Love Doctor” because he honestly believed that everything began and ended in love.  His classes at the University of Southern California were called, simply, “Love 101,” and there was a year’s waiting list to get in that class.

As for hugging, nobody could hug quite like Leo, and it mattered not if the hugger was man or woman; it was about loving all of God’s creatures. 

His favorite word, he told me, was rapture.  He always said he never wanted to miss the rapture in life.  To do this, you have to stay open in both mind and heart. 

If you didn’t want to hurt anyone or try to help one who is hurting, you had to build high walls around yourself.  The thing is, that same wall also keeps all the rapture out.   I, for one, listened to him and never build walls. 

I have had many hard challenges in my life, but I can assure you I have been caught up in the rapture of life many times, and it was and still is worth it. 

Leo taught me to find or make time to listen to anyone who needs me.

He told me about a student of his who asked him to listen to her sad, sad life story. 

Unfortunately, he truly could not fit her into his schedule. Two days later, she didn’t come to class at all.  He went looking for her.  It was too late.  She had hung herself. 

While this was fresh hurt on my mind, it happened to me. 

A dear friend, overwhelmed with having a child once a year, and finding it just impossible to handle it all, begged to talk to me.

With a term paper due the next day, I simply could not give her time.  That night, she committed suicide. 

So filled with grief and shame, it made me physically ill.  God help me, I will never make that same mistake again.

Oh, how I wish all my readers could’ve known Leo and heeded his wisdom. 

He had a real purpose about being friendly and loving to everyone. 

Two things he preached:  When you pass someone on a street or anywhere say “Hello,” and smile, and if they turn around and say, “Do I know you?”  Say, “No, but wouldn’t it be nice?” 

The other one, and my favorite: In an early morning class, at 8 a.m., his first “Love 101” began. 

Every day he’d walk in pleasantly and smile. 

Everybody was usually half-asleep and nobody ever smiled.  So one day he said, “Is anybody in this class happy today?”

Most of them stirred in their seats, yawned or even gave a pathetic half-smile. 

Leo looked at them and said, “Well, if you are happy, would you please notify your face?”

I am so thankful to have someone like Leo, who not only taught me how to teach with love as the motivator, but to live the same way. 

If you’ve never read any of his books, head on down to your nearest bookstore, open your mind and heart and prepare to feel the rapture.

The view from the mountains is wondrous.

Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in The Sun for more than 25 years.