Like many, I used to really dislike Valentine's Day for all of the reasons listed above. Until, that is, I began to reflect on why this day is named after St. Valentine in the first place. First, a brief lesson:
Very little is known about the real St. Valentine, but he is believed to have been a priest (and some say bishop) and physician who was martyred for his faith in Rome during the third century. Some accounts say he befriended and healed from blindness his jailer's daughter. Others claim he defied the Emperor by secretly marrying couples to spare the husbands from war. He is the patron saint of lovers, epileptics and beekeepers (which I, as a lover and a former epileptic who loves honey, can really appreciate). Now, as anyone can tell you, the Catholic Church doesn't make just any ol' body a saint. Martyrdom alone requires a great demonstration of love, as does healing your enemy's daughter and risking your life to spare others theirs. So it makes sense that a day about love would be associated with this saintly, loving personality, regardless of how much of the legend is based in fact.
I would argue that if we re-calibrate the meaning of Valentine's Day to focus more on loving all others as St. Valentine did, rather than on just emphasizing romance and retail sales, it takes on a whole new meaning and could easily become a new favorite holiday.
So what does it mean to LOVE ALL?
L - Listen more, talk less
O - Observe where you can meet the needs of another
V - Value every being, even those who are challenging to love
E - Empathize with those who are hurting
A - Act to make the world a better place
L - Lean in and don't be afraid to risk yourself, your pride, or your comfort for the sake of others
L - Learn from those whom you wish to emulate, as well as from your own mistakes
Let Valentine's Day be an opportunity to celebrate all types of love, not just romance or love of chocolate, and to express it in all manner of ways. Be sensitive to the fact that people who don't have a sweetheart often need extra love from everyone else on February 14th. Maybe those little kids have the right idea in giving a valentine to everyone, even those they find challenging, because we all need love and love is all we need. What are some valentines you can pass out to show those in your life that they are special and valuable? Some ideas:
- Thank a co-worker for their help with a recent project.
- Write a note of appreciation to your clergy, a teacher, a veteran, or a service provider.
- Visit a home-bound friend, family member or fellow parishioner.
- Bake cookies for your local fire or police department.
- Leave a snack with a note of appreciation for your mailman.
- Call someone you haven't spoken to in awhile to let them know you are thinking of them.
- Give a homeless person your gloves or a pair of new, clean socks.
- Hold the door for a group of people and wish them all a Happy Valentine's Day.
- Surprise someone you love with a special lunch delivery to their office.
- Put a note in your child's lunchbox expressing your love for them.
- Let the stranger in line behind you go ahead of you.
- Light a candle for a deceased loved one.
- Say a prayer for someone in need.
- Share something -- anything!
- Look up from your phone and smile at passersby.
It doesn't take a dozen roses or a heart-shaped box of chocolate to make someone feel loved on Valentine's Day. With a little thought and a lot of heart, celebrating love on Valentine's Day--and every day--can be easy peasy!