With Valentine’s Day coming up, we can’t help but think about that one thing: love. What does it mean to us? Where can we find it? How can we tell if it’s real?
Love is hard to put a number on. And I don’t mean a number like once you reach 500 kisses, you’ve achieved love. Or, you win if you can get the other person to sacrifice their plans to be with you 10 times. Love is not an arcade game. You don’t get tickets for being thought about or getting a hug. Nor do you trade in other’s expressions of love for some bigger prize.
When I say love is hard to put a number on, I mean this: Love cannot be defined. It is different for each and every one of us. Something that makes my heart swell may not trigger even a thump in someone else’s heart. That’s scary to think about, right? We live in a world where we can pull up instructions for how to drywall a basement with a simple tap of a finger. So what about step-by-steps for how to love? Can we just get a picture of love, or how about a diagram? Something, anything concrete that we can see with our eyes? Nope. For that, we are on our own.
The whole purpose of this blog is to share stories that inspire us and help us realize that we are all connected. So for Valentine’s Day I figured, why not find a story that does the impossible and gives us a picture of love?
Okay, now’s the time to use that handy tapping finger of yours, which just pulled up instructions for “How to cook a Valentine’s meal for my significant other without burning down the kitchen” (don’t worry, your browsing history secrets are safe with me), and click on the video below:
A friend of mine shared this story on his Facebook page a while back and I’ve been trying to think of the best way to incorporate it into the blog. The story can easily stand on its own and I could have probably posted for weeks about how incredible and inspiring the Long brothers are. But, when I was trying to figure out the best way to demonstrate love, this video immediately came to mind.
I don’t know about you, but everyone I have shared this video with has been left in tears or at least at the origins of them. Conner Long is eight-years-old. Eight. He’s younger than the age when most kids start doing word problems in math. If Conner and Cayden travel a total of 5 miles over the course of their triathlon and it takes them 1 hour to complete the race, how many minutes does it take them to go 1 mile? This question may take Conner a little time to answer because he is, after all, only in 3rd grade, but one thing is for certain, the answer to that question means nothing to Conner if he doesn’t have his brother with him during the race. I watched another video on the Long brothers (see link below) where the boys’ father knew that they may not be able to participate in the Iron Kids Triathlon because of space regulations with their raft and trailer, so he asked Conner if he would want to participate alone. Conner’s answer? He would sit at home first before he left his brother out.
As we all know, play is the language of children. And for children like Cayden, who have cerebral palsy and cannot get out of their wheelchairs to run around at recess or kick a soccer ball with friends, this acceptance into childhood is all the more difficult. Conner saw this. He knew that not only would his brother be the last one picked at recess, but he wouldn’t be chosen at all. Cayden was doomed to a life on the sidelines and that just didn’t seem fair to his big brother who knew that “it doesn’t matter what he looks like on the outside; it matters what’s on the inside, and he still has regular feelings like we do and he understands what you say about him.” Conner’s desire to connect with his brother as well as to be the voice that was taken from Cayden in typical childhood play brought the two to heights that many people never believed possible. In his acceptance speech for the Sports Illustrated “SportsKids of the Year Award”, Conner choked back tears while saying, “A lot of people thought that we’d never be able to do something like this but…we can always do anything.”
And though they’ve never finished anywhere near first and probably never will, what matters most is that they cross that line together, connected with an unbreakable bond that was built from the indisputably powerful love of a brother.
That is love. Plain and simple. Although it cannot be defined, it can be observed in the tears of little Conner Long as he stands up on stage talking about what the award means to he and his brother. And it can be seen in the smile of Cayden Long as he crosses the finish line along with his brother, feeling like a real kid; a kid who isn’t going to be stuck on the sidelines his entire life and, a kid who wasn’t picked last, but rather first, in the heart of his older brother.
To watch another video about the Long brothers, see below: