As the story goes, a group of grownups asked a group of 4-8 year olds, "What does 'love' mean?"

Here are some of their answers:

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too." -- Rebecca, 8

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."-- Billy, 4

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your french fries without making them give you any of theirs." -- Chrissy, 6

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss." -- Emily, 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."-- Bobby, 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."-- Tommy, 6

I'm not sure why we abuse the "L-word" as much as we do in our culture. We love our food, our clothes, our jobs, our cars, homes, pets and door knobs just as much as our children, parents, friends and loved ones, it would seem. We love that TV show, this song, a funny meme, my new smartphone, Chinese food and an SMS vine. Even McDonalds' global marketing theme is "I'm Lovin' It." Of course, Ron never seems to define exactly what "it" is.

A quick search on the web for a definition of "love" really doesn't help, either. produces a few attempts at defining this most hallowed (or not) of English words.

"An intense feeling of deep affection."

I understand that language is a living thing. Definitions and usage change over time. We don't call the pharmacist at Ireland Army Health Clinic the apothecary any more than we use awful to express something "worthy of awe." However, if we have collectively degraded the use of "love" to a feeling, we are all the poorer for it. More googling is required.

"A deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone." As in "It was love at first sight."

If defining love as a feeling wasn't bad enough, now we have commonly linked it with sexual attachment. I believe we homo sapiens are more capable of love than an over-emotional leech.

Real love isn't a feeling or "the tingles" as Gary Chapman would say. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary uses synonyms like "care very much for" and "be devoted to." This gets more to the heart of love.

Love is what we do, not what we feel. More to the point, love is our commitment to what we hold most valuable: people.

The New Testament writer, Paul, tells it like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
(I Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV)

Maybe Jessica, age 7, has the best perspective on love: "You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."

I love that one.