Dan Ponsetto, Boston College’s director of the Volunteer and Service Learning Center, spoke in Hillside Cafe this Tuesday for Agape Latte’s Valentine’s Day event about love in both its forms: verb and noun.
“So it’s Valentine’s Day, and you’re sharing it with me,” Ponsetto said. “I promise you that this will not be your greatest Valentine’s Day, but if it is, I’ll be very happy.”
Ponsetto first fell in love with a girl named Suzy Robinson in seventh grade, after he saw her across a football field. They “went together” for eight months, he said, calling each other every night to talk about nothing. Then, she broke up with him.
When 11th grade came, he was in the high school musical, and Robinson was the head makeup artist. They were reunited again, in just the intimate setting he wanted.
“I had Sue Robinson touching my face at every show,” he said. “And her face was this close to me, so I was making every expression I possibly could to lure her back in—and it worked.”
This time around, love hit him hard, and he made the audience swoon, and simultaneously laugh, with his words.
“I was so in love, I couldn’t talk,” Ponsetto said.
Ponsetto recalled cutting hearts out of construction paper he found in a drawer somewhere in his home and using glue to paste the hearts together. On the hearts he wrote in cursive, which he had never used before in his life. He made her a special valentine.
Birthdays, expensive presents, a college breakup, a college makeup, and a proposal later, Ponsetto realized just how long he and his wife have come since they first met 34 years ago. That is much too long of a relationship to be entirely filled with love-struck moments and smooth sailing, he said. It’s a lifetime.
“Love is a commitment that lasts longer than being in love,” he said.
This dedication to love, beyond the times when it’s easy, is necessary in other times in people’s lives besides their relationships, according to Ponsetto. It applies to their hobbies, communities, clubs, workplaces, and selves.
Ponsetto cited the funeral of his friend Howie Rich, who passed away from brain cancer, which was too packed for everyone to get a seat. A man who loved and committed to everything that moved him, Rich had multiple speakers at his funeral: teenagers from the youth ministry, his colleagues, the people from his church, and his family. They all had the same warm, kind words about the man, including his own wife and children.
Ponsetto remembered his car ride home that night perfectly. With the radio off, he first asked himself the commonly asked question, “Would anyone attend my funeral and say nice things about me?” Once he settled the answer to this, he moved on to a harder question.
“If that happened, would my wife and kids in the front row recognize the person being described?” Ponsetto said.
What is most important, he emphasized, is who someone is when he or she goes home—after the service trips are over.
Ponsetto moved on to create a counterargument against a Ben & Jerry’s bumper sticker that posed the question, “If it’s not fun, why do it?”
“If love had to be fun, my wife would have left me years ago,” he said. “If love had to be fun, I would’ve bailed on parenting every time one of my four kids turned about two and a half years old. If love had to be fun, my mother would not have spent the last six months of my father’s life, as he died of cancer, getting him out of bed, dressing him, feeding him.”
Fun, Ponsetto made clear, is not present every day of a relationship. He argued that love brings people joy regardless of how fun certain times may be, and that love just feels right.
While love is mostly thought of as a verb, Ponsetto closed his discussion by reminding the students that it’s also a noun. It’s something received, shared between people, spread around communities, and given by oneself entirely.
“Our capacity to really commit to love, and to love people, I think is really very deeply in our own experience of knowing that we are loved,” Ponsetto said.
Ponsetto turned to the students and made his final point in a simple phrase.
“Whether you believe it or not, I’m making an announcement tonight,” he said. “God loves you very much.”
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor