And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col. 3:14)

MS. CARPENTER’S STUDENTS were the most unruly in the senior class. Many were surly, in trouble both in and out of school, and totally disobedient in the classroom. Each year colleagues asked administrators to give her a higher level class to ease the stress of such a population, but the answer was always, “She is so good with those kids.” Ms. Carpenter never complained. She stayed until seven each night, visiting with students individually after school, then grading endless papers and planning fresh lessons to pique their interest. Every year former students returned to tell her if it hadn’t been for her, they would have dropped out of school or made disastrous life choices. While other teachers marveled at how she handled such rowdy groups, Ms. Carpenter responded with, “I love them.”

Paul knew the power of love. When he listed the virtues a child of God should possess, he topped everything with love because it “binds them all together.” Ms. Carpenter could be compassionate and kind with difficult young people, but if she had no love for them, they would recognize it immediately. She veiled her infinite patience in love, which enabled her to reach students through her amusing stories, comical activities, and creative uses of technology. Some virtues can be performed, but love is the heart in action.

Find those who seem excluded, and show God’s love to them.

Alice Thomas is an adjunct professor of English at Lone Star Montgomery College in Conroe, Texas. She loves to garden and read.