Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day I know not everyone is a fan of this holiday. As soon as stores clear the last of the stock of discounted after Christmas sale merchandise of wreaths, candy-filled stockings, nutcrackers, candy canes, and Santa Claus and reindeer statues, the aisles get re-filled with heart shaped chocolates and greeting cards from packaged minis in multi-packs to elaborate and suitable for framing little works of heartfelt art. On this day paper greetings decorated with hearts and sweet sentiments and candy and flowers will be exchanged and love will be celebrated and expressed with generous enthusiasm.

Many of us who grew up in the United States can remember our early exposure to this holiday, the primary school Valentine’s Day celebration. Everyone in our classroom would give us a card and we would have prepared a card for everyone and all of us would go home with our collection of cards. We learned how to draw hearts and cut them out of red construction paper so we could decorate our homes and our classrooms with these simple little symbols of love. This annual ritual was one of our first experiences of giving and receiving, of seeing and being seen.

As adults, if we choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, it’s mostly a day to celebrate romantic love and bestow the made just for this holiday symbols of affection and tenderness on that one special person in our lives. We make the dinner reservations, buy the flowers and the heart-shaped chocolates, cookies and cakes and find the perfect card, all acts to make sure the one we love knows how much we care.

If the 14th of February arrives and we’re without a one special someone this holiday can feel like a spotlight on our aloneness. How can we all, romantically involved or not, join in this celebration of love, which is the act of caring and giving to someone else?

Valentine’s Day can be whatever you want it to be. Just as the meaning of Valentine’s Day has changed over the centuries from a religious celebration to a commercial holiday the meaning and celebration of this holiday can be whatever you want it to be. We can, as Miley Cyrus suggests, buy ourselves flowers, or give sweets to our family and friends and co-workers. We can also use the day to think about how we might give to those who are in most need of some love and make some plans to give of ourselves, our money, our time. Giving to others can help us feel included in the celebration of love. In this time when loneliness is an epidemic and isolation and division are literally killing us, participating in a holiday that invites us to express a little love in whatever forms we can is just what this weary world needs now.

This year I’m going to buy one of those multi-packs of mini Valentine’s Day cards and put dollar bills in the envelopes with the cards and hand them out to those in need that I encounter on my walk through my downtown neighborhood. I’ll get to feel like an excited kid again preparing my little Valentine’s Day cards. This small act won’t bring world peace or end violence or heal illness or end poverty but for that one moment of exchange when I hand over the card and look into the eyes of a stranger and wish them a Happy Valentine’s Day, for that one moment I’ll feel the healing power of giving and seeing and feeling connected. That’s worth celebrating.

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