Treating Valentine’s Day Gently

Yesterday was that most celebrated and simultaneously dreaded and reviled of days: Valentine’s Day. I know some people who love it, others who disagree with it, boycott it, or downright hate it, all for different and likely very valid reasons. I personally don’t mind it. It gives me an excuse to do what I enjoy doing anyway: letting people know that they are cared for, loved, and appreciated.

In college, I bought carnations from one of the sororities and had them sent around campus to my friends. I snuck around dorms, leaving parcels of fresh-baked cookies or sliding cards under doors.

Nowadays, I send letters and cards through the mail, few to none of them necessarily red or pink or covered in hearts. I sometimes send flowers, goodie/snack baskets, books, or coveted t-shirts.

This year, I bought my husband a card about cuddling up and binge-watching our favorite show, along with a copy of the latest season of “The Big Bang Theory” so we could do just that. He bought me a DVD of a show that I have been looking forward to, too. I bought my daughter some cute outfits for her first Valentine’s Day party at preschool and a card with a spring-loaded heart inside, which she played with and covered in stickers all evening.

Yes, the day has become commercialized. Yes, the keeping of it has become social expectation. Yes, some people try to front-load affection, love, kindness, etc., and then let it lapse the rest of the year.

For some, this day is a day of bitter memory, of hurts tied not to the day itself but to the events of one or several Valentine’s Days. Unfortunately, over time, those bitter cords have attached themselves to the day itself. The circumstances have perhaps faded into oblivion, leaving only the day to stand as a bastion of misery and thus worthy of boycotting.

Again, people’s reasons are valid and they are free to do as they will.

For me, I choose to approach Valentine’s with the thought of, “Whose heart can I gentle today?”

Whose heart can I make smile today?

Who can I remind that they are loved today?

Who needs a reminder of the good that they have done that I’m grateful for?

Who could just use a kind word on what might be a lonely day?

For me, Valentine’s Day isn’t an obligation, it isn’t a burden. It’s an opportunity–for love, for encouragement, for gentleness. But that’s just the way I see it.

I hope yours was good to you.

Actions Living Out Words

Last night, I did something I have never done before. I gave a stranger a ride. This is not something I do. Not by myself and definitely not at midnight on a Friday. As I drove through downtown, I saw a woman at the side of the street, trying to wave down a car. As it would be, the light turned red and I had to stop. She came up to my window and asked if I could please help her. The pro/con battle that warred within me felt like it lasted for hours, though it really only a second or two. I rolled down the window and asked if she was OK. She said no, she had asthma, couldn’t get home, and couldn’t afford an ambulance. I could see that she was weary and wheezing and afraid. So I opened the door and told her to get in, sit back, and breathe deeply. Her name was *Ruth. She said that she had stopped a police officer and asked for help but that, for insurance reasons, they said they couldn’t give her a ride, but they could call her an ambulance. She said that she didn’t have eight hundred dollars for an ambulance and lived too far away from home to walk and make it. I told her that I’d take her home but she’d have to tell me how to get there. And so we started off. It wasn’t that long of a drive and she explained that she cleaned houses, starting at midnight (I’m not sure how that works), but that she had started to feel weak and wheezy. So I told her to sit back and breathe deeply and slowly as we drove. It was not my place to judge her in any way; my place was merely to help.

Cards on the table. I was scared. I was terrified. This was not something I had ever done before, but she needed help and I was the one there to offer it. I speak of kindness and helping others as best we can all the time. Now it was time to put my money where my mouth is and walk the walk. I’m not saying that I did this to prove that I am a good person. No, not by any means. This was as much a step of faith for me as a helping hand for Ruth. I prayed the entire time – for help for Ruth but also for protection and safety for me as I ventured into unknown territory. Where she took me in town, I had never been and worried about finding my way back but, thankfully, the road the roundabout put me back on after I left her place ended up being a pretty much straight shot towards my home.

As we drove, Ruth talked. She talked about her employers, being bonded to them and hopeful that they would understand why she wasn’t at work that night, not getting paid until Monday, how she had stopped for a $0.99 shot of liquor before heading to work that night, and, interspersed amongst her tellings, she kept repeating, “You are an angel.  You saved me. God will bless you, Mel.” I just told her that I was glad I was able to help. And that’s the truth.

I dropped Ruth off at what she told me was her uncle’s house and that he would take her home and then I headed off towards mine; after all it was after midnight and I would just reach home by the time I had told Ben I should be home. Very much not the end of my night I had expected but I only hope and pray that I was of some help and that Ruth got safely to her home and rest.