By Bil Keane
In the nearly 30 years that I’ve drawn the syndicated cartoon “The Family Circus,” I’ve learned a lot about love. I’ve found it in my own family, and frequently what I’ve observed has provided the basis for a cartoon with Billy, Dolly, Jeffy or PJ. But I make no secret about it—when it comes to love, my greatest inspiration, and the model for “Mommy,” has been my own wife, Thel.
We have five children (and now four grandchildren), and when they were younger, people often wondered how Thel managed with so many. I often wondered too. Whether she was soothing the hurt of a scraped knee, sitting in the audience at a school play, or helping with homework at the kitchen table, Thel was always there for us. And the more she did for us, the more she seemed to have to give us.
That was how I came upon one of God’s paradoxical laws of love. Real love doesn’t come in limited, finite amounts. It can’t be used up so there is no more. Instead, in a manner that defies physics, the more love you give, the more you’re able to give. Like enthusiasm that fosters enthusiasm, kindness that inspires kindness, cheerfulness that inevitably spreads, love increases when it’s given away.
I tried to put all that in one of my cartoons. There is Mommy, a full bag of groceries in one hand, her purse in the other, and Billy, Dolly, Jeffy and PJ tugging at her knees. The woman at the left asks the question, “How do you divide your love among four children?” And Mommy’s answer, real words to grow on:
“I don’t divide it. I multiply it.”
The Essence of Love
All the best things in life come packaged in a ribbon of risk. You untie the gift, you assume the risk, and equally, the joy. Parenthood is like that. Marriage is like that. Friendship is like that. In order to experience life in the full sense, you expose yourself to a bottomless pit of vulnerability. That is the essence of true love.—Kristin Armstrong