Love and always more love is the only solution to every problem that arises.
~ Dorothy Day
Ari Weinzweig is the owner and co-founding partner of a Jewish grocery store called Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I have yet to try any of Ari’s many gourmet delights, although I have savored a steady diet of wisdom that he conveys in a weekly email newsletter called Ari’s Top 5. (Thanks, Kerry.)
The e-newsletter features tasty foods like Hungarian Beigli with Walnuts, rare Swiss mountain cheese and dish recipes like “a sort of deconstructed Caesar salad”. But what’s most nourishing for me is the life advice Ari gives at the top of each top five list.
Topics range from the importance of gratitude to anger management to accepting our emotions. They are often related to what it means to be a good boss and a good leader, but, more often than not, the lessons Ari teaches translate into what it means to be a good human being.
In a recent story titled, A loving look at natural law # 14Ari spoke of the atmosphere he tries to create every day at his Zingerman workplace, so that his customers can “shop in a place surrounded by love.” He explains the effect he is trying to create in this way:
It’s a bit of a glow beneath the surface, something you can feel almost as soon as you walk in, a feeling that usually stays with you long after you leave. It’s a feeling that almost everyone I know enjoys, and which, consciously or not, almost all human beings are quietly drawn to, a feeling that often brings us back over and over again for more..
Ari considers creating this sense of warmth to be necessary for the success of any small business. This atmosphere of love is pervasive and extends to every corner of his business. Love for his employees, love for his customers, love for and in the products he makes. The reason for all this love? Ari quotes biologist Humberto Maturana:
Love is our natural condition. We humans love animals, and our intelligence and creativity in the area of human welfare depend on our love of animals.
The following are Ari’s ruminations on love. While they are often presented in the context of one’s business, they can all be applied to our own lives as well. In some cases, I have taken Ari’s words verbatim. In others, I edited his often long thoughts and added a few words to myself.
5 steps to be a more loving human being
Step 1. Learn to Love Yourself. Ari says “he learned the hard way that until I made my peace with myself and started to treat myself with the same kindness and love that I advocated for others, my life was never going to happen. Good”. Love begins in you. It’s hard to spread unless you’re also loving and kind to yourself.
Step 2. Begin every human encounter from a positive place. According to Ari, “If we start every interaction believing the best of individuals and their intentions, we’re much more likely to love. This means going into every meeting, whether it is with your neighbor, a store clerk or a coworker, with the conviction that their intentions are good. When we do this, “we are likely to get positive results.”
Step 3. Admire the uniqueness and beauty of everyone you interact with.. It starts with being less critical of someone because of their age, skin color, or religious beliefs. We must “avoid lumping people into statistically attributed stereotypes or burdening them with ungenerous assumptions and prejudices.” Ari advises that “it ultimately means looking, lovingly, into the eyes of everyone we deal with.”
Step 4. Lead with Generosity, Humility, Hope, Care, Kindness and Compassion. Ari admits he “slipped a few times.” But whenever we find ourselves less generous or compassionate than we should be in our interactions, we have the ability to change that, often in the next moment or the next time we meet.
Step 5. Prepare for your next interaction before it happens. Choosing love means making a commitment to love before you are in the world, before your next interaction happens. To Ari, that means “quite simply, take a deep breath and make the thoughtful decision to start every day, every meeting, every piece of cooking and every embarrassing conversation with love.”
One last thought: I recently saw an interview where actor Keanu Reeves told TV host Drew Barrymore that she should “always fight for love”. Barrymore replied, “I’m not a fighter, I’m a lover.” At that point, an animated Reeves replied, “No, no, because if you’re a lover you have to be a fighter. Because if you don’t fight for your love, what kind of love do you have?
The point being love is not always easy. It may take some effort on your part. But if you are committed to making love an integral part of your life …the an integral part of your life, love seems to appear more easily and to be more present. Our intentions have a way of creating our reality. Love breeds more love. Good reasons to reread steps 1 to 5 once more.