Despite taking Spanish in high school and Greek in seminary, I only speakÂ English. One day this summer, however, Iâ€™m pretty sure I understood Italian, because I know youth.
One afternoon during the two weeks IÂ had the privilege ofÂ attending the Wesley Pilgrimage in EnglandÂ (I wroteÂ several blogsÂ about it), I was on my wayÂ to meet some fellow pilgrims at Salisbury Cathedral. It was right across the street from where we were staying. As I walked out the door, a youth group exitedÂ a building next door and headed in the same direction. As a consequence,Â I soon found myself literally in the middle of a youth groupâ€”theÂ girls in front and theÂ guysÂ behind.
This is not a position with which I am unfamiliar. In my more than 20 years in youth ministry, I have been in the middle of many groups of youth. Through the years,Â I witnessed and participated in countless youth conversations,Â but this was the first in Italian.
I grew up in a half-Italian family, where on Sundays we would visitÂ our SicilianÂ grandparentsâ€™ home.Â Occasionally,Â they would launch into Italian when they didn’t want us kids to understand what they were talking about. I’m fairly certain that means that if I repeated whatÂ I heardâ€”as if I could remember itâ€”it would be NSFW (not safe for work).
I did not understand whatÂ these young people were saying, but I’m pretty sure I know what they were talking about. Â My experience was the key.
Every so often, one of the guys would run up to one of girlsâ€”whom Iâ€™m guessing he may have had a crush onâ€”and say something with a twinkle in his eye and a grin stretching from ear to ear. The young lady would then reply, loud enough for the whole groupâ€”which now included meâ€”to hear, â€œUno amore! Uno amore!â€ One love! One love! OK, I understood that. Then the whole group would laugh.
Ah, this was a classic youth group conversation about dating. Well,Â conversationÂ might be a strong word. They were having fun teasing one another.
My guess is the guy was defending a belief that he or some hypothetical â€œfriendâ€ should be able to have multiple girlfriends at the same time. The young woman however disagreed. You have one love. If there is more than one, it is not amoreâ€”which is a pretty convincing argument.
I tried to hide my smile, as I remembered the many times I had been inÂ this conversation before with English-speaking youth groups.
It was heartwarming to realize we human beings, despite language and cultural differences, are pretty much the same. Youth from all over the globe tease one another about dating. They laugh, smile, and use just about any excuse they can find to engage the one they are crushing onâ€”even when it might be an ill-advised conversation topic.
Not to get ridiculously deep or theological over a simple story, but there is something to what that young lady said,Â â€œUno amore!â€
We are all loved with one love, byÂ the One who is love. May we be those who love others as completely as He loves us.