It's a word that most children use daily. They say they love their parents, their siblings, their stuffed animals. But do they really know what love means?
Melissa Mulder, kindergarten teacher at Martic Elementary School, was on a mission Tuesday to answer that question.
One by one, Mulder took each of her students out in the hallway and asked them, “What is love?”
Many students shrugged their shoulders, nervously shuffled in their seats and stared, dumbfounded, at their teacher.
“I was surprised at their lack of knowledge of love,” Mulder said.
Some explained actions that often correspond with love, such as hugging and kissing. Others assigned feelings that people feel when they love someone.
“Love means being kind to somebody,” Ava Willard said.
“Love means your happy with a friend,” said Ivory Sweger, dressed in a gray and blue dress with the word “love” emblazoned across her chest, “and you love them so much, it's love.”
“Like when you love someone, you want to kiss them,” Aiden Brown said.
“Love means happiness together,” Kyrra Sears said, “and when your mom gives you huggies and kisses, it makes you happy.”
But nearly all of Mulder's students struggled to define love without using the actual word.
“It's when you love people and you like them a lot,” Ciara Mastriania said while rocking back and forth in her chair.
“I love you?” Richard McCauley guessed.
It's no wonder why these students, many of them just 5 years old, struggled to grasp what love really is, as experts in science, religion, philosophy and other areas of study have tussled over the exact meaning in an age-old debate.
“Love can be so many things,” Mulder said.
When asked for her definition of love, she mentioned a Bible chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.
“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,” verses 4-7 read.
Mulder also acknowledged that love is multifaceted, and one singular meaning may not suffice.
“I love my students for who they are. I love my family,” she said. “I love going shopping, but that's for a completely different reason.”
Perhaps the most important facet of love, Mulder said, is that it brings people together.
“Everybody can talk about love and what love is,” she said. “So that was my goal, so everyone could be included.”
“In and of itself, we're talking about loving one another for who they are.”