How important is it to offer our love, especially to those closest to us, with no strings attached?

Ernest Hemingway wrote a poignant short story called “The Capital of the World.” In it he tells about a Spanish father who wants to reconcile with his son who has run away to Madrid. In order to locate the boy he takes out this ad in the El Liberal newspaper:

“Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon on Tuesday. All is forgiven. Love, Papa.”

Paco is a common name in Spain, and when the father goes to the square he finds 800 young men named Paco waiting for their fathers.

What drew them to the hotel? As Hemingway tells it, it was the words “All is forgiven.” I notice that the father did not say, “All WILL BE forgiven IF you do this or that.” Not, “All WILL BE forgiven WHEN you do such and such.” He simply says, “All is forgiven.” No strings attached.

And that’s the hard part – un-attaching the strings. Wiktionary tells us that the origin of the expression “no strings attached” may go back to ancient times when documents were written on parchment that were rolled up and secured with a string. The Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Bava Metzi’a tells of a man who gives his wife a bill of divorce on such a parchment, but holds onto the string so that he can snatch it back, should he choose to do so. The divorce, therefore, is not considered valid since he will not give it freely.

Similarly, love, forgiveness or friendship that is given with strings and conditions attached are a sham and not valid, since they can be snatched back at any time.

An unknown author beautifully portrays the possibilities of no-strings-attached love in this heartfelt story titled “The Rock.”

“As she grew older her teenage daughter became increasingly rebellious. It culminated late one night when the police arrested her daughter for drunk driving. Mom had to go to the police station to pick her up.

They didn’t speak until the next afternoon.

Mom broke the tension by giving her a small gift- wrapped box.

Her daughter nonchalantly opened it and found a little rock inside.

She rolled her eyes and said, ‘Cute, Mom, what’s this for?’

‘Read the card,’ Mom instructed.

Her daughter took the card out of the envelope and read it. Tears started to trickle down her cheeks. She got up and lovingly hugged her mom as the card fell to the floor.

On the card were these words: ‘This rock is more than 200,000,000 years old. That is how long it will take before I give up on you.'”

This mother is not saying, “I will love you IF.” Instead she says that she will love her daughter forever and nothing can change that. No strings attached.

When we learn to love like that, I think we’ll understand the words of Emmett Fox, who said, “If you could only love enough, you could be the most powerful person in the world.”

Steve Goodier

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