I’d just done the groceries.
I was standing at the boot unloading bags of shopping while simultaneously instructing Master Five to jump in the car, and placating Miss Two with offers of treats if she just sits tight in the trolley until I’d finished. It’s always a tricky moment that follows. Do I strap both kids into the car and make a dash to return the trolley, or do I juggle them there and back on account of the fact that it’s technically illegal to leave children alone for any length of time in a car, unsupervised?
On this occasion, my dilemma was solved before I even had a chance to give it much consideration.
A man walked up having just deposited his own trolley and said, “Can I return that for you?”
Yes, I said, and he did, and I thanked him over and over, buckled the kids in and drove away feeling like singing. Something upbeat, you know, like from The Sound of Music.
And it’s really odd, because I’ve thought of that guy a lot since then, the fact that he was so thoughtful. He went out of his way to extend kindness – to a stranger, no less.
This is where I tell you that I have come to the conclusion that there are SIX love languages, not five. Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages has become to Christian couples as What to Expect When You’re Expecting is to a pregnant woman. It’s like the handbook to understanding and expressing love. And if you’re familiar with this volume, you’ll know that the five love languages I refer to are as follows, on the basis that we all have a favoured way of receiving (and therefore also expressing) love:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
- Quality time
So there I was, chatting with a friend, mostly about our hubbies. Singular. We have one each. Anyway, she was saying how she didn’t seem to fit the FIVE. She liked them all. What mattered most was the motivation behind the expression and the evidence of thoughtfulness. That a person had been thoughtful enough to send her a text and say they were thinking of her. That her husband had considered that her day was mega busy, and had cooked dinner to help out. That her mum had written a card of encouragement.
So, Mr Chapman, we concluded that you missed one. Thoughtfulness is the sixth love language that could be argued to stretch the spectrum of loving expression, but which some of us need more than all the other neat categories combined. There’s no denying that your book has helped countless people in countless different relationships relate better. And I’m no theologian but, like my friend, I did puzzle somewhat over why I could relate to many, if not all, love languages while sometimes being left cold when my ‘language’ had been delivered on faithfully.
Thoughtfulness. It was offered to me when that guy returned my trolley when I was out doing the groceries with the kids. It was an Act of Service but, without the thoughtfulness, it was void. It was his thoughtfulness that returned to my memory, not the trolley-wheeling.
Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” I think this is where it’s at. Pure motivation. Motivation that authentically yearns for the best, that seeks to honour God in the way we honour others.
And if you’re reading this, Mr Trolley Man, thank you. Your thoughtfulness was inspiring. Imagine if we all did a little thing like that, every day. There’s a challenge for you.