A book on my mind right now is Bob Goff’s Love Does. I follow Donald Miller on Twitter, which is how this book landed on my radar. Goff is a construction-defect lawyer based in Seattle, who teaches in California, and helps run Restore International which is an anti-human trafficking organization.
He is Christian. His emphasis throughout the book is less “relationship with Jesus” and more “follow Jesus’ model of living”. Christian leaning Unitarian Universalists, or any open minded non-Christians really, would probably read this quite comfortably. It is the sort of book that, for me, highlights the best of Christianity: an orientation of love. Often Christian books can have an orientation towards rules, and I think that’s what turns off non-Christians to them.
The writing style is informal, familiar, and easily digestible. I read it via Seattle Public Library e-book on my Kindle, so I cannot tell you exactly how many pages there are per chapter. I can tell you how they felt like they were passing quickly. It is possible that the writing contributes to that perception of brevity, because Goff is a good storyteller and his anecdotes are engaging.
I enjoyed the book, though there were points in which I felt quite uncomfortable. The man is bold. It can come off as a bit impulsive, because it seems he does a lot of big things with minimal discernment. His life is adventurous as a result. He signed up for a race to Hawaii on a ship without actually knowing how to sail one. He and his son went mountain climbing in a blizzard. Thinking he was being pranked, or so he says, he ends up becoming the representative of Uganda to the United States. That was in response to a prank where he ran up a room service bill of $400 for a friend. The discomfort came from a sense that he was braver than I am. I never like that feeling of being a relative (though maybe not absolute) coward.
He reminded me of lots of people that I have known who were also bold. I found that an “adventurous life” is a fitting description of my dauntless friends and acquaintances. I regularly receive invitations from one friend of mine to go sky-diving, playing paintball, play on a high ropes course, and so forth. That is just the stuff she’s inviting me to; she does a lot more. I have two friends who bought an airplane together. I know that they thought that one through quite carefully, it was a risk. They chose to lean in on the side of their dreams instead of the side of safety. It is precisely that tilt which Goff calls “Love does”.
It is not recklessness for the sake of having a bunch of stories to tell. There is a specific motivation behind what he does, hence “love does”. He loves his kids, he loves people, he embraces whim at every corner; he loves life. It is an orientation towards action, and it is a comfort with risk. He finished the book with his phone number, saying that, “I’ve found that the people in my life who have actually been the most influential have also been the ones who were most available”. Gulp. Bold move, man. It is true to his message. Love is a verb, not an abstract idea.
There were a lot of moments where I would read an anecdote and think, “You did WHAT?” Listen, I am not exactly super risk averse. I moved across the country instead of moving back to my hometown. I married at 23. I have a motorcycle for crying out loud. At the same time, I do not have that drop-everything-and-go orientation and it scares me a bit when I meet others who have it. It’s a respectful fear: I simultaneously worry and admire it, and sometimes I wish I had more of it myself. (My darling husband has told me that I could use some more discernment and am sometimes a bit impulsive. It is all a matter of perspective I guess.) Some of the stories seem really far out there.
One thing I wish Goff had discussed a bit more is that not all risk-taking ends up being profitable. Yes, you cannot prosper without risk. It also invites the opportunity to fall on your face in very spectacular and painful ways. This book does not always read true to life, because there is a noticeable dearth of stories that lacked happy endings. Perhaps Goff has the biggest streak of fortune of anyone on the planet. Part of why this book is so inspirational is how he does all this crazy stuff and ends up OK. At the same time, he clearly has access to resources most folks do not, so many of his capers reflect a certain degree of privilege. It inspired me to think, “Well, you can do that, because you’re a lawyer. The risk of [insert caper here] is greater for me because I am not as wealthy.”
It has been on my mind. In the last few years I have oscillated between embracing life and building walls around myself. The former way of life resonates with my spirit and the latter takes a lot of self-convincing. Love Does resonates with that. The former is also the way that gets me into the most trouble. Currently, I am trying to discern the wisdom of taking a 15-20 hour a week volunteer gig at the local food bank, presuming they even offer it to me. It is not guaranteed. The opportunity cost could be the timeline through which I find work which pays a paycheck, a non-trivial concern in my life. One of my friends said, “Please tell me they aren’t taking advantage of your gigantic heart to convince you to work for free for 6 months, even though you need and deserve a paycheck.” She then noted that she loves my gigantic heart. The comment resonated with me because it smells true. Another friend pointed out how ironic it would be if volunteering at a food bank threatened my ability to acquire food. (Lessons learned the hard way: when my loved ones unanimously think that someone or something is a bad idea, they are usually on to something.) As Goff is using the New Testament as his guide, he would probably fall on the more self-sacrificing route because that is what Jesus tended to encourage. Goff’s own willingness to do so is very admirable, and you totally get the sense his heart is in the right place. Mine is conflicted.
In conclusion, I would recommend reading Love Does because it is entertaining and it gives the reader a lot to think about. With that said, your mileage may vary in what you are thinking about.
Update @ 9:47 PST: Via Twitter, I received a brief (and kind!) note from Bob Goff himself saying that he read this review. Not going to lie, that was very, very cool. Thank you for your time!