We enjoyed a visit from my cousin and his wife this summer. Their youngest son is twenty-five years old and autistic. One can’t listen to the challenges they faced without great admiration filling the heart.

Anna talked about how badly all kids need unconditional love. She said that it is sometimes harder for autistic children to feel that from non-family members because so many people don’t understand some of the autistic behavior issues; this lead to a story about our oldest Scottie,

Bernie.

A few years ago, when we were working on publishing a collection of stories from students at Sisters Middle School, a very bright young man wanted to contribute to the book but he had trouble sitting still. When I went to the school to work with the students, the Scotties came with me. Bernie especially liked kids. Bernie and Jimmy (not his real name) found instant love.

Bernie didn’t mind Jimmy’s fidgeting. He seemed to enjoy the high energy of the young man. It turned out that Bernie’s love became a tool in our kit helping Jimmy to settle down and work on his story.  Jimmy could sit quietly when Bernie lay at his feet. The three of us bonded so well that we sometimes got permission to go outside and play catch and fetch. Bernie gave Jimmy unconditional love.

My Scotties understand love so well that I am able to perform many therapeutic tasks on them that they hate, but tolerate because of their love. They hate getting drops in their ears, but they let me do it. They hate having their teeth brushed, but they allow me to do that once a week. After each process, they lick my hand and we hug.

I doubt that there is a person alive who wouldn’t give up just about anything to find unconditional love from another person. The stories of rich men or women disguising themselves in an attempt to find someone who would love them for themselves rather than their money are found in every culture.

What does it take to find such love? It begins with us. First we have to know how to offer that kind of love. In long-lasting relationships, we cannot receive from someone else anything that we cannot give.

Many years ago I found a wonderful quote: “Love is more than a feeling; it is a commitment, a decision to care forever.” Like the Scotties, you have to forgive things you don’t like in the other person, and just love them.

People who can give unconditional love are people who are at peace with themselves. A person doesn’t have to go to a monastery to find peace. Peace is something inside. Peace comes with forgiveness. When we learn how to forgive others and ourselves for being imperfect, that’s when we begin to walk on the road of peace.

When others hurt us, many times there was no intention to harm. The hurt was inside of us. How do we get over it? Forgiveness. We release the hurt and hold the other person harmless. You may say that the other person was bad, mean and terrible and doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. That’s not the point. You want peace. You will only find peace by forgiving the other person.

There really are only two great emotions that drive us; fear and love. Jesus told us that God is love and we are to love each other as we love ourselves. People who cannot forgive themselves for errors are people who will never be at peace until they learn how to do that. Then they can learn how to forgive others.

Maybe that is why Scotties offer unconditional love; they don’t carry inner guilt and hate for their own errors. None of us is perfect and we never will be. As we learn how to forgive ourselves, we then learn how to forgive others. This is the love we all want. Our homes, our community and our nation can be a much better place when we learn to forgive and move on. Let’s forgive and help each other to greater peace.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13