Happy Valentines Day Agape‑mou

By Jill Parshley-Cardillo 

Whether you are religious or not, you may have heard this poetic verse written in a letter by  Paul in the Bible, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of  wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts,  always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). 

Growing up in Astoria, NY- there was a mosaic of cultures, as Queens is one of the most diverse  communities in the world. Predominantly, however, on the surrounding blocks where we lived,  was Greek families, culture, schools, festivals, restaurants and churches. One of my Greek best  friends at the time would call me “agape-mou”. It was sort of like she was calling me, “my-love”.  I found this to be an honorable title for me to hold, and I truly appreciated and welcomed that  coming from a dear, platonic, supportive friend’s term of endearment. It came at the perfect  time, since I was feeling scared and insecure, braving puberty, art and dance club, volleyball  tournaments, competitive cliques, gossip, and peer pressure, all while coming of age in  sophomore year of high school. At the time, my young mind and growing heart knew that agape meant something along the lines of “unconditional love”, however, I never actually looked up  what the definition of that word meant, until now. Brittanica.com explains it best as, “the fatherly  love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God. In Scripture, the  transcendent agape love is the highest form of love and is contrasted with eros, or erotic love,  and philia, or brotherly love.”  

Agape is challenging to put into words. To me, it is more of an action. It is the service, the  generosity of loving all of humankind, it is empathy, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion,  giving, letting go of one’s natural ego and judgement, and instead, making a sincere choice to  be loving, kind and tolerant across the board in your life, as “God” would do…not just with family,  friends and neighbors, but also… beyond. Beyond what is expected of you. Of me.  Simply…beyond.  

That is why Chooseafamily.com is so unique in its structure. Because, it is not just about what  you may receive from a relationship, but it’s based on what you can offer. When you freely  unconditionally give yourself an opportunity to be a substitute family figure or mentor in a  stranger’s life, you are emulating a higher love, allowing, if I may say “God’s” love, to work  through you. For some of you who are active members, you may have experienced that  surprising joy, while you are of maximum service helping to mend a broken piece of someone’s  personal internal and external puzzle, you found in doing so, that you heal as well.  

I remember walking into my high school for the first time and seeing a huge emblem embedded  on the floor upon entering. It was majestic and all encompassing, it was the Golden Rule- “Do  Unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So, even before I actually knew the definition  of agape, I felt the comforting benefits as the recipient of it’s meaning. When my Greek friend  and her parents would invite me over for dinner, they’d offer Gemista (pronounced ye-meeSTA) 

a delicious delicacy of roasted tomatoes and bell peppers stuffed with rice and herbs. It was a  few years after our father passed away. Our single mother, sick with Lupus and other ailments,  was working hard to help put me and my sister (Kim -Chooseafamily creator & CEO) through  private school and make ends meet. Kim was in school all day then working long hours at a  sales job after work. After my part-time shift at the local supermarket was over, I had no place to  go, no where to eat on the days when our mom’s casserole and TV dinners were obsolete.  That’s when my Greek friend would say, “Come on over for dinner, agape-mou”. When I went  through my first big heartache, she would console me and give me an ear, lend a hand, and lift  my chin up when all I wanted to do was sulk. And last, when I had endless palpable poetry,  deep words of pain left unsaid that needed to be heard, she would invite me to recite it and truly  listen, only like family could. After all of her actions and more, I did not have to research the  nickname “agape-mou” when she would call me that, because deep down inside, I already felt  inexplicably what it meant. By the way she would say it, the actions that complimented it, the  context of her sentence while using it, I was engulfed in a love that was beyond looking for  something in return, beyond “brotherly love”, beyond the pleasures of intimacy; if God could  come down from the heavens and walk in the shoes of humans and take my hand, that is what  she did for me. They say people come in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. She was  there for a reason. To teach me agape. And since then, I’ve been beyond grateful to  continuously practice how to pay it forward.  

As you make your selections here on Chooseafamily.com, choose wisely, because you never  know if agape is mysteriously already waiting for you in a profile, or truly ask yourself if you have  more than enough for your needs and it’s time to give, as the Hebrew Bible says, “My cup  runneth over”. 

I’ll close by saying the year our father passed, Donna Summers and Musical Youth came out  with the song, “Unconditional Love” (partial lyrics below). Til this day I know all of the lyrics by  heart. During this COVID-19 pandemic when my friends passed away, or I saw conflicts on the  news amongst neighbors, people fighting about mandates, quarantines, vaccines, laws and  moral being broken, big crimes and little crimes (like a neighbor on line at the store taking the  last can of disinfectant spray or toilet paper!) or when the annoying endless NYC traffic came  back in full swing as each lockdown subsided…every time, I felt I was being taken care of by  some sort of Higher Power, perhaps the same HP who brought you here, today. As the world is  slowly reopening it’s doors, and there may be conflicts, remember agape…we don’t need to  aggravate or engage in any of those stressful situations by acting out of self-will. Enjoy your  Valentine’s Day by welcoming new, sincere relationships in your life. When and if you are faced  with stressful times, turn the other cheek, inhale deep breaths and meditate, take a break by  scrolling through some profiles here, and sing the lyrics to this song, in your head or aloud, just  like I do. 

“Unconditional Love” 

“Give me your unconditional love 

The kind of love I deserve 

The kind I want to return. 

… Don’t try to change 

Or tear your brother down,

Let him make his mistakes 

And he will come around. 

…True love transcends all time 

…That non-reacting, everlasting love 

… Give me your unconditional love 

The kind of love I deserve 

The kind I want to return 

… Give me your unconditional love, My torn heart to discern, 

This agape love to learn.” 

Jill Parshley-Cardillo is a freelance writer and a blog writer for Chooseafamily.com. Contact her at  Info@Chooseafamily.com. Follow her on Facebook on her page “In Between Brooklyn & Queens”  or Twitter at @jillparshley

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