Contrary to what most people believe, Valentine’s Day is not just about exchanging cards and heart-shaped candy. Acts of kindness and showing love to one another (or oneself) should be enough to celebrate the Feast of Saint Valentine.
Among the many legends of lore is the popular version that while in prison, Valentine, the holy priest in Rome, fell in love with the jailer’s daughter who visited him during his confinement. Valentine was charged with secretly marrying soldiers who were forbidden to wed and ministering to Christians who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. Before his death on February 14, 278 A.D., Valentine wrote a farewell letter to his sweetheart from jail, signed “From Your Valentine.”
Although Valentine’s acts of love and loyalty earned him sainthood, which translated into the flurry of modern commercialism and gift buying “in the name of love,” many forget that the price he paid for martyrdom was brutal torture and a beheading – hardly the stuff of romance by the fireside! In fact, some singles liken the dreaded celebration to brutal torture, worthy of someone being beheaded if they hear one more reference to those love-struck by the non-holiday.
In preparation of Saint Valentine’s Day, don’t let advertisers, retailers, florists, or the dreamy-eyed get the best of you. Head off the onslaught of expectations and needless spending by creating your own Valentine experience. The day may be a reminder for some singles that they don’t have a special someone in their life, but to really honor Saint Valentine, it would be prudent to recognize that he risked everything to unite love and kindness between people. It would be so much more inviting to enrich the lives of others who need love more than you.
Acts of kindness can be the universal element that seals affairs of the heart – no matter how the deed is delivered or to whom. How easy would it be to make their day by sending a card in the mail to someone who is unattached, recently divorced, widowed, or single by choice? How great would it be to finally reach out to the charity you proclaim to be devoted to? Or how about treating the most important person in your life to a stress-free day of pampering and relaxation, especially if that lucky person is you?
Singles have it easy, actually. Non-couples can ignore Valentine’s Day completely if they so choose, go to the movies of their choice or binge-watch on the couch, treat themselves to a new anything, or do nothing at all. For those in a relationship, however, the ghastliest thing they can do is ignore Valentine’s Day and do nothing! The expectation of receiving something and not getting it, or worse, anticipating a life-changing question involving a special ring which doesn’t happen, may result in fighting or grudge-holding which can fester long after the anticipated lovefest is over. For couples, Valentine’s Day can backfire in dreadful ways, while singles can enjoy freedom from let-downs and the ability to continue their life sans candy-coated calories and void of flowers that tripled in price overnight.
If you really want to enjoy Valentine’s Day, don’t think about yourself. Try delivering Valentines to your co-workers (whether you like them or not). Student packs sold everywhere are safely playful, and the rewards are priceless. The first time I decided to do the deed on a whim, it elicited behaviors that resulted in smiles all around. The child in me prompted unexpected deliveries to each and every desk in my department without stopping to chat – just a swift drop-and-go. As I approached my fellow employees who were diligently working away, there were looks of surprise and delight, and for some, the appearance of indifference … but as I walked away, from the corner of my eye, I would catch the recipient drop the boring report they were reading or stop fiddling at their keyboard mid-stroke to open the little red envelope and enjoy their surprise. A silly act of whimsy made their day, and for many, that card sat propped on their desk for months, some even into the following year.
The most giving act on Valentine’s Day occurred when I worked for an international entertainment corporation. The company employed friendship ambassadors and goodwill emissaries on a full-time basis to meet, greet, and host guests ranging from visiting VIPs, heads of state, and children with life-threatening diseases desiring a place of respite and some much-needed joy. I covered a special assignment on Valentine’s Day and accompanied the head envoy and feel-good team to a local children’s hospital. With a hospital escort, we visited each and every bed on three floors. Some patients were isolated due to their illness, but we could still clasp their gloved hands through a glass window opening. The surprise visit from an unexpected friend dressed in red and white heart-infused attire took the children away from their sterile environment for a few unforgettable moments.
One toddler attached to her portable IV pole, out on a hallway walk accompanied by Mom, was caught by innocent surprise. She cried at the site of the unanticipated visitor, only to break into a smile when the goodwill ambassador pretended to cry, too. The little one’s fear turned into a rushing hug as they cuddled and exchanged some much-needed love, sharing a brief moment of joy.
Valentine’s Day. No need for brutal torture. No beheadings necessary. After all, when all is said and done, February 14 is really just another day.
Abella Carroll is a freelance writer