By Satya Shaw

There’s something everyone must come to realize at some point in their lives, though they might never acknowledge it. Love isn’t something you feel in one singular moment — it’s a collection of memories from the time you’re born to the day you die.

Love is imbued in the smallest actions, from the most meaningful ones to the funniest. These actions can range anywhere from giving a gift, to truly being there for someone in their time of need, to even just laughing with someone. Nobody’s life is perfect or easy, but finding these moments of love can help make each day a little bit brighter.

Sitting in my room one late, COVID-locked-down night, I noticed something. Perched on a shelf above my desk, next to an overturned photo and a piece of art from sixth grade, sits a blue and gold award. I won a KidSpirit Award in 2020 for my Interfaith Connections piece, “To Be Me.” While it may not seem like much, this award means so much to me. On that night, I reflected for the first time on the love that surrounds me and I noticed the impact it has had on how I view the world and the way I interact with people I love. It was a very personal piece that took a lot of self-reflection to write. It fills me with love to know that something I poured my heart into resonated with so many people. I’ll be honest: looking back, that piece isn’t my favorite of those I’ve written. But that doesn’t change the fact that no matter my feelings now, I still made myself vulnerable and shared part of myself. I hope that people can feel the love I put into that piece and feel inspired to share parts of themselves with the people they care about.

The award serves as a physical reminder of what can come from being open with people. Going one step further, I think one of the greatest acts of love — both platonic and romantic — is truly being there for and listening to the people who share with you. People often lean on the Golden Rule to “treat others the way you want to be treated,” but I always try to push my friends and family to follow the Platinum Rule, to “treat others the way they want to be treated.” I say this because everybody is different. Some people benefit from talking through their problems while others simply need someone to be with them and care. Not every person’s wants and needs will align, and people tend to forget that. Sometimes people don’t need advice, they just need someone to listen.

COVID highlighted this in many ways. I don’t know how to describe this past year or so in words that everyone hasn’t heard time after time, but I know that it affected many people’s mental health negatively, including mine. I can’t describe exactly how it made me feel to be with the same people in the same place month after month, but I know that neither I nor my emotions had anywhere to go. More anxieties piled up every day, about school, friends, family, appearances, and pretty much everything else you can think of. There was no escape, or so I thought until I opened up to my friends. Not only did they feel the same, but they also gave me so much love just by simply listening to me and helping me see that I wasn’t alone. It’s these moments that show the power love has over how we interact with the world.

Love, however, isn’t always deeply personal. Some acts of love are small and hilarious. One thing I’ll never forget is the time my dad surprised my mom with a Bollywood poster with her face photoshopped onto it. One of my mom’s favorite things to do while ironing clothes is to watch Bollywood movies. Knowing this, my dad spent hours photoshopping her face and other family members’ faces onto Bollywood posters as a gift to her. It doesn’t seem like much — after all, it’s just a little gift — but isn’t that the point? Love isn’t always deep. It can be just spending time doing something to make someone you love happy.

Love exists in every moment, and it’s up to us to be able to remember that. We should dwell on not only the hard times but also the good ones. Love can be a grand gesture, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a gift in and of itself, and, whether you mean to give it or not, there are some people who steal your heart by simply being there for you. In my favorite book, All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, one of the characters says: “You make me lovely, and it’s so lovely to be lovely to the one I love.” I think that’s something we all feel and something we can’t control. When we are around the people we love, we’re lovely, they’re lovely, the world is lovely, and everything falls into place.

Satya Shaw was a ninth-grader at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, New York, when he wrote this piece. He loves to read, sing, and hang out with his friends. His dream is to become an actor.

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