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In the first of a series of blogs on All We Can’s values, Chief Executive Graeme Hodge talks about love songs and life-changing work.
If given the category of love songs and power ballads, most of us on a Zoom quiz would probably do fairly well at naming at least a few songs and their lyrics. Whether songs, movies or stories – love, by far, is the most predominant of subjects to which we are drawn, to which we connect. And this chart-topping love has made many a millionaire over the years as we grasp onto and repeatedly play out the lovingly emotive words and scenes that have moved us.
There’s that great scene in the film Moulin Rouge where Christian (Ewan McGregor’s character) is trying to convince Satine (Nicole Kidman’s character) that he is the real deal, that he really loves her, in spite of the fact that she has heard all of his lines before from all the men who have professed their infatuation for the beautiful starlet who performs every night at the Moulin Rouge. Christian tries to differentiate his love from the lust-driven exploitation she has grown to accept as her way of life, by trying to describe the love he really feels in song lyrics. ‘Love? Above all things I believe in love. Love is like oxygen. Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong…all you need is love!’
Like so many through the ages, describing what love is, or how much we love someone or something, drives us to reach and scratch for all sorts of metaphors and inspiring poetic vernacular, to demonstrate the depth of love we want to express.
At All We Can we deeply value love. It is one of the three central values that form the foundation of our movement, action and culture. Love is the oxygen of our movement and enables meaningful relationships and actions. Love is what gets us out of bed in the morning, keeps us working and hoping for the world to return to what it was always meant to be. Love is what drives us into meaningful connection with the poorest people in our world, with partners who are genuine equals, with people who love enough to see beyond their own comfort and seek and act for the comfort and prosperity of others they may never even meet. Love is patient and kind and forgiving – remaining even when progress takes two steps forward and three steps back.
The kind of love that we breathe in as a movement is not a fluffy, futile, paternalistic infatuation with the poor. It is a gritty, transformative love. It requires, in our collective exhale, something of us all. It demands that we get involved and love beyond ourselves and our own needs. It is a love that brings justice and hope and fulfils potential and is not dependent on the casual generosity of one person, but rather on the consistent commitment and solidarity of us all.
Austin Channing Brown said ‘When we are filled with love for other people, injustice becomes intolerable.’ Being rooted in the Christian faith means that for All We Can, love is a measure and expression of the divine. It is an outpouring of the gracious love shown to each one of us by God, that compels us to, in turn, show and share love to all others. It doesn’t mean we tolerate inequality, bigotry, injustice and poverty. It means that our love compels us to challenge and remove any obstacle that prevents any person, or indeed our planet, from a full and unfettered experience of sustainable life in all its fullness.
Love drives us into relationship and connectedness. It means we seek interdependence rather than to establish independence from others. It means we are wholly uninterested in an outdated model of aid and support that is driven by an historic method of control. It means we believe in the sharing of all we have and are, with the people and planet we are a part of, for the benefit of all, for all the days to come.
Love established in truth and selflessness prevails in spite of pandemics, politics and populism. It speaks to the very heart of us, and if allowed, takes hold of our mind and actions and directs us to compassion, community and to the very best version of our collective selves.
Love changes things. We have seen it, we believe in it and it is why we value it so deeply. It is why we have emblazoned it across our movement’s core identity statements and strategy. We choose love. Today, for always, for everyone. Because love in action really has, and will continue to, change the world.
Graeme joined All We Can in 2016 and in December 2018 became All We Can's Chief Executive. His role is to help lead an innovative team focused on alleviating poverty in some of the world’s poorest communities through dynamic partnerships.