Until last year, I fell into the I’m-too-cool-for-Valentine’s-Day camp. I mocked it as an over-commercialized holiday that drove over-crowded restaurants, over-priced flowers and over-blown gestures all to prove one’s love. I failed to understand that just because these acts did not resonate with me as love, they could be acts of love for others.
My oldest child has now celebrated three Valentine’s Days. For the first, I begrudgingly filled out his Valentine cards to be shared at his preschool. At my oldest’s second Valentine’s Day, my cold heart warmed.
I noticed that he was excited about telling his friends he loved them. I listened to the words in his books. The theme was love – all kinds of love: friendship, family and strangers. I had been missing the Valentine’s message for years. It is a chance to celebrate love. We celebrate wars and remember their victims. It’s only fair to take a day to celebrate love.
This got me curious about the root of Valentine’s Day as it seemed odd to me that someone who was canonized by the Catholic Church was all about the va va voom. A little internet research suggests that St. Valentine and the modern concept of Valentine’s may not be so closely intertwined. There are several theories on the origins of the modern concept of Valentine’s Day.
Love has so many faces, shapes and forms. I struggle to define it, but am quick to think I know what it is not. There are the obvious gestures of love and then there are those gestures that appear in unexpected places.
Yesterday, I watched as Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan finished their final miles of the Women’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. It was not the finish that was riveting, it was how they helped each other finish that was riveting. It was selfless. It was love. Fighting for someone else’s dreams while you are fighting for your own. Pulling someone else through as you are pushing yourself through. Marathon running is not a team sport. It is not the NBA Finals, where the team needs their best scorer to push through so they can pull out the win. It is an individual sport where the benefit of helping someone else out is not measured at the finish line. It is only a testament to one’s being as their choices on how to live their life shine through in their actions.
I will not have the momentous occasion of pulling a friend to the end of the Olympic Trials, but I do have little opportunities to be love everyday. Here’s my prayer to myself to remember love in those moments: When the day is beginning, to smile at my husband before we both walk out the door. Be Love. When grabbing coffee, my mind on some work email that just came through, that I look someone in the eye, say hello and ask how their day is going. Be Love. When my mom texts in the middle of the day, to respond. Be Love. When my kids test my patience, to maintain it. Be love. When someone hurts me, to forgive. Be Love. When a stranger asks for help, to oblige. Be Love.
Yes, I try to celebrate love everyday. And I should do these things everyday, but for me, it does not hurt to set aside one day a year as a reminder to celebrate and focus on Being Love.