On Tuesday night, a large crowd of BC students bustled in to Hillside Cafe for Agape Latte’s first ever Valentine’s Day event, featuring speaker Dan Ponsetto, the Director of the Volunteer and Service Learning Center. The evening began with live music courtesy of Alex Moran, MCAS '19 and Nicole Rodger, MCAS '19. Refreshments (lattes included) were served to the audience.
The talk began with three quotes, read aloud by student members of Agape Latte. The first quote, by Pedro Arrupe, emphasized the gravity of love: “Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” The second quote, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, spoke to the commitment that love requires: “Learning to love is hard and we pay dearly for it. It takes hard work and a long apprenticeship, for it is not just a moment that we must learn to love, but forever.” The final quote was a slogan on a Ben & Jerry’s bumper sticker: “If it’s not fun, why do it.” Throughout his talk, Ponsetto discussed and expanded on each of these quotes.
Dan Ponsetto first recounted the story of how he met his wife of 34 years, Susie Robinson. They met in the seventh grade. Dan, nervous at the time, asked her out at a high school football game. They “went together” (the colloquial term for dating back then) for eight months until Sue broke up with him. They started dating again in the eleventh grade when Sue was Dan’s makeup artist for the high school show. Dan would call Sue every night on the phone. Amidst the uncertainty of graduating, Dan and Sue broke up again once they left for college. However, as fate would have it, they reconnected at the University of Michigan. Dan asked Sue to marry him when they graduated, and they have been together ever since then.
Ponsetto then shared what his experiences with love and marriage have taught him. First, love is a commitment. He suggested an amendment to Pedro Arrupe’s quote; instead of “Falling in love and staying in love,” we ought to “Fall in love and commit to love.” Falling in love entails figuring out who we are in love with. Once we’ve fallen in love, Ponsetto claimed that we must commit to that love. We must ask ourselves why we are in love, and we must be ready to let the love change our lives.
Furthermore, Ponsetto explained that it’s not just people that we should fall in love with. We should also fall in love with ideas, activities, truths, and convictions. Once we are certain that we are in love with these aspects of life, we should commit to them and let them affect us.
Ponsetto next explained that love is local. It is easy to go on a service trip for a week and give out endless amounts of love to people we do not know well. However, it is difficult to endlessly love the people we spend everyday with. It is difficult to stay committed to our love to these people when we have conflicts with them. We often take these relationships for granted.
Ponsetto affirmed Dostoevsky’s quote—love is hard. In order for love to change our lives, we need to endure struggle. The Ben & Jerry’s bumper sticker that encourages us to only pursue that which we find fun is misleading, but Ponsetto explained that if he had only pursued the fun aspects of life, his marriage would have never lasted thirty-five years.
Throughout his children’s youth, he had to stay up all night many times taking care of his children when they were sick. He did not necessarily have fun doing this, but he has never regretted taking care of his children. His children’s love makes any struggle beyond worth it.
Ponsetto ended his talk by offering some advice on how to commit to love. The ability to commit to love is rooted deeply in knowing we are loved. If we know that we are loved unconditionally, we are more willing to give love. We won’t let the fear of falling in love get in the way of discovering what we love. Ponsetto suggested that those who struggle with recognizing that they are loved should practice spending time alone every day for at least five minutes. During this time, they can reflect on the unconditional love they have from God or another important figure in their life. This practice will help them gain confidence in the fact that they are loved.
Ponsetto’s talk was insightful, funny, and relatable. His Valentine’s Day talk moved beyond romantic love—beyond chocolates, flirting, and even relationships. Ponsetto views love as a means of discovering our place in the world.