In the audio trailer of Michael Franti’s Staying Human podcast, he says, “ … the belief that I have, there’s no one that you wouldn’t love, if you knew their story.”

I appreciate Franti’s sentiment. Truth is, I struggle with love

I am amazed over and again by how easily other people convey it, especially men with other men. Hugs and I love yous. Even in fictional shows and movies, which, come to think of it, is mostly where I see that happen. But that probably says more about my lack of broad social interaction these days than it does about how men who are friends in the real world are acting with and toward one another.

Behind every macho Harley-mounted criminal and tough guy in those fictions I watch, there are the truths of writers and producers, actors and directors who are putting the message into our society that love is common and natural, even between men of scars and violence and testosterone overloads.

Franti’s line resonated with me enough to write it down for a reason. I have spent many years getting to know people’s stories. As a journalist, and eventually as Humanitou. And now with the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast.

I struggle with generous expressions of love outside my own household (I’m profuse with it for my wife and sons). But I do not struggle with compassionate listening. I started podcasting for that purpose, for connection, to facilitate others’ sharing of stories, to do something good and worthy.

Though I struggle with love myself, I believe what Franti says. I convey that through my podcasting, through the encouragement of sharing and listening to each other’s stories. In that way, listening is love. Showing curiosity about each other’s stories is love. Validating each other’s existences by honestly, empathetically listening is love.

I too know we’d all feel much closer, much more connected, if we knew each other’s stories. It’s what Franti calls that love. A rose by any other name.