There are times when we long to be able to help someone whom we love very much, but we can do nothing. Circumstances will not allow us to approach them, or the person is closed off to any gesture of solidarity and support.
Then all we are left with is love. At such times, when we can do nothing else, we can still love - without expecting any reward or change or gratitude.
If we do this, the energy of love will begin to transform the universe about us. Wherever this energy appears, it always achieves its ends. 'Time does not transform man. Will power does not transform man. Love transforms,' says Henry Drummond.
I read in the newspaper about a little girl in Brasília who was brutally beaten by her parents. As a result, she lost all physical movement, as well as the ability to speak.
Once admitted to hospital, she was cared for by a nurse who said to her every day: 'I love you.' Although the doctors assured her that the child could not hear and that all her efforts were in vain, the nurse continued to say: 'Don't forget, I love you.'
Three weeks later, the child recovered the power of movement. Four weeks later, she could again talk and smile. The nurse never gave any interviews, and the newspaper did not publish her name, but let me set this down here, so that we never forget: love cures.
Love transforms and love cures; but, sometimes, love builds deadly traps and can end up destroying a person who had resolved to give him or herself completely. What is this complex feeling which, deep down, is the only reason we continue to live, struggle and improve?
It would be irresponsible of me to attempt to define it, because I, along with every other human being, can only feel it. Thousands of books have been written on the subject, plays have been put on, films produced, poems composed, sculptures carved out of wood or marble; and yet all any artist can convey is the idea of a feeling, not the feeling itself.
But I have learned that this feeling is present in the small things, and manifests itself in the most insignificant of our actions. It is necessary, therefore, to keep love always in mind, regardless of whether or not we take action.
Picking up the phone and saying the affectionate words we have been postponing. Opening the door to someone who needs our help. Accepting a job. Leaving a job. Taking a decision that we were putting off for later. Asking forgiveness for a mistake we made and which keeps niggling at us. Demanding a right that is ours. Opening an account at the local florist's, which is a far more important shop than the jeweller's. Putting music on really loud when the person you love is far away, and turning the volume down when he or she is near. Knowing when to say 'yes' and 'no', because love works with all our energies. Discovering a sport that can be played by two. Not following any recipe, not even those contained in this paragraph, because love requires creativity.
And when none of this is possible, when all that remains is loneliness, then remember this story that a reader once sent to me.
A rose dreamed day and night about bees, but no bee ever landed on her petals.
The flower, however, continued to dream. During the long nights, she imagined a heaven full of bees, which flew down to bestow fond kisses on her. By doing this, she was able to last until the next day, when she opened again to the light of the sun.
One night, the moon, who knew of the rose's loneliness, asked: 'Aren't you tired of waiting?'
'Possibly, but I have to keep trying.'
'Because if I don't remain open, I will simply fade away.'
At times, when loneliness seems to crush all beauty, the only way to resist is to remain open.
From Like the Flowing River, © 2006 by Paulo Coelho, published by HarperCollins.