Last week was a busy one. With summer’s end nearing, I was trying to get several projects finished while the weather holds. It’s best to caulk the bathroom and paint and varnish and all that when it can be done outside or with the windows open, so I spent Friday and Saturday busily working. It wasn’t all chores. I also had a chance to say “I love you” and “I care” in a creative manner.

You see, Carey had a pretty stressful week. Some of it was good stress – like being a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding – and some of it was flat-out hard. Fortified with lots of hugs, I sent her off to Wedding World on Friday. I probably should have packed her an extra box of tissues. Didn’t think of that, though, because I was already scheming about a surprise I had in mind for her, something that would be a special way to let her know that she is loved.

In case you didn’t know, there are lots of ways to say, “I love you.” One fellow by the name of Gary Chapman wrote several books on what he calls “The 5 Love Languages.” According to Chapman, a love language would be “a primary way of expressing and interpreting love.” He believes that a person will give and receive love in one of five ways.

Briefly, the languages are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. These are pretty straightforward. Words people need to be told in so many words, “I love you.” Chances are that they say “I love you” a lot, too. Quality Time folks want and give attention. You might be able to tell what they care about by how they spend their time. The Receiving Gifts crowd aren’t greedy. It’s that nothing says “I love you” to them like the giving and receiving of gifts. Know anybody who is always doing stuff for others? Their language might be Acts of Service. Try doing something for them, and see if they smile. My mom does! The people who need hugs and give them freely are likely to be Physical Touch folks.

The 5 love languages probably should not be considered to be hard and fast rules. What I’ve seen is that individuals will most likely express and accept love using all five, and that primary might only be in use barely more often than the others. For instance, I’d be a Quality Time person, but words are pretty important to me. Carey is a touch person, which would be what prompted all of the hugs, but I happen to know that she won’t turn up her nose at gifts. Then again, there are people who have a strong primary, like my friend Lana, who loves gifts, or my friend Steph, whom I used to call tactile, because she was always touching the people in her space.

One fantastic outcome of Chapman’s work is the awareness it raises about how differently people can function. We don’t all communicate  using the same methods. There are many ways for me to tell others that they’re loved, and they might be using some of them to say the same to me. Sometimes, they even overlap. Think about it. My thing is quality time. There’s not much, if anything, that can be done without some investment of time. Giving somebody a hug takes a little time. Telling somebody they’re loved takes some time. Acts of service can definitely take time, and gifts? Well, just buying something takes time, and if you’re making it, it’s a good bet more time will be involved.

Speaking of gifts, maybe I should move onto my wooden message. Over the last year, I’ve worked on various projects, like building shelving, that involvedg boards. All of these projects left me with various pieces of scrap wood. I was looking at them on Thursday last week, looking at Carey’s room, and had an idea. “Mom,” I said in a moment of Carey-free space, “I’m going to build Carey a bedside table while she’s gone.”

“Yes!” my mom replied. “I’m in!”

Carey left Friday morning, and that night I started working on her table. She’d been wanting one to replace the stack o’ boxes currently gracing her bedside. Before I started working, I of course, like always, drew up extensive plans. All ten lines easily fit onto a single Post-it note, which I never looked at again after I started. 😛 With Shelah’s help (she got to satisfy her craving for hand work with sanding, planing, and using my drill press) on Saturday morning, I think it took about 8 hours of labor to build the table. Once built, we turned it over to Mom, who was finished painting it by Saturday night. Even Stephers got involved. She picked up a few things for us to help make the table perfect. It just looked great. I was a little jealous, to be honest. I may have to make one for myself.

Sunday morning, Mom came up for “coffee,” and we surprised Carey with the table. She loved it! Judging by her response, she also felt loved. That was the best part.

This was a cool thing to do for a lot of reasons. The table itself filled a need. It will certainly function a little better than those long suffering boxes. It’s also a good example of something I love about my family, that we make a great team. We’re even greater when we’re doing something sneaky. Carey felt loved and supported! Furthermore, it was a great opportunity to express that love and support to her utilizing some of those other languages and gifts possessed by my family members. There just aren’t always good opportunities for that. Last but not least, that table also made a great home for those lonely pieces of scrap, something I find immensely satisfying. There’s a lovely symbolism in turning “junk” into treasure.

Hope you’ve had a great week, and that you had your own wooden “I love you” story!