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Forty years ago the Beatles declared, “All you need is love.”

About the same time Dionne Warwick sang, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”

On this Valentine’s Day, here’s a question. Were they right? Is love what we really need? Is love the secret weapon that Lt. Gen. David Patraeus should use to transform the carnage in Baghdad into harmony? Is love the ingredient that is missing in our village council?

Imagine that a couple walks into my office at church and says their marriage is in trouble. After listening to them for half an hour, I respond, “Well, I see what your problem is. You two have to start loving each other.” How do you think that would go down?

So, here we are on Feb. 14 again. A third of us are so in love it’s almost nauseating. Another third of us have been through so many Valentine’s Days with the same person that it’s tough to find that spark again. And the other third of us are alone-just recently or for a long time now-and this day doesn’t mean much.

Maybe romantic love isn’t possible for everyone. But there is love other than the romantic variety, right? For example, if during the children’s sermon at church you ask kids to define love, they tend to answer that love is being “nice.” And then they look over at their sibling and add, “Sometimes being nice is hard.” They already have a handle on the reality that love isn’t always romantic. They of course will lose their grip on that handle soon after puberty.

Let me offer a few pictures I keep in my mental scrapbook. The first picture is of a row of about 20 black Amish carriages taking one of their children to a cemetery after the child was shot by an “English” in the supposed safety of her classroom. And the story that accompanied the picture said that the Amish had forgiven the man.

The second picture was taken around 20 years ago in an Olympic stadium. A father watched proudly as his son, a long distance runner, was coming around the final curve contending for the lead, when suddenly his son pulls a muscle and the other runners pass him by as he limps to a stop, head bowed, hands on his knees. When he looks up he sees his father running to him from the stands. His father puts his son’s arm around his shoulders and together they limp the rest of the way to the finish line.

A third picture was snapped recently at the end of a football game in Miami. Two men embraced, declaring in physical terms that their friendship was more important than winning or losing. The name of one man was Tony, and the name of the other was-you guessed it-Lovie.

What does love look like? It’s easier to answer that question by telling stories of when we’ve experienced it than to compose a definition. Maybe the person who came closest to getting it right was a guy named Paul who almost 2,000 years ago wrote that love is patient and kind; that it’s not arrogant or resentful; that it does not insist on its own but bears all things.

What I expect is a kind of love that comes with maturity. I want people who hang in there even when they don’t get their way, because that’s one of the hard things about love-that even when it is sincerely given, it can be rejected.

Come to think of it, relationships that last mature into that kind of love long after they’ve left the “falling in love” stage.

Have a good Valentine’s Day.