Originally printed in February 2011
Valentine’s Day is Sunday. Isn’t that a great holiday? A holiday dedicated to showing our loved ones how much they mean to us. We have St. Valentine, an early Christian martyr, to thank for it. His letter to a young girl, before he was executed, is one of the alleged origins of this day. Valentine’s Day, now, for the most part, is a lovers’ day.
That’s nice, if you have a partner. The point of this column, though, is not lovers’ love, but friend love, family love, or just general love. Love expressed in kind words.
Years ago, I used to attend a little prayer meeting with some other parents from the school my kids were attending at the time. I couldn’t make it to one of the meetings and had texted my friend telling her why I couldn’t make it. She texted back, “OK, sweetness.” Wow, I thought at the time, isn’t that nice! I texted her back and told her I love it when she talks like that.
Another instance around the same time, at the Canned Food Store in Redwood City, we were waiting in line, and a clerk opened up her window, and said to me, “I can take you over here, honey.” I just lit up. I love when folks talk to me like that. Don’t you?
I love these terms of endearment; but unfortunately, I don’t use them as often as I should.
My friend, the store clerk and many others I come in contact with are steeped in this kind of kindness, and not only are their words dripping with this divine quality, but so are their mannerisms and their countenances. I have another friend who is the epitome of optimism and joy. I can’t comment on anything on Facebook or say anything that she doesn’t give me a positive and joyful response. I adore this characteristic, and this friend.
Unfortunately, growing up, these expressions didn’t flow readily. My ability to use these delightful demonstrations of affection is somewhat underdeveloped. I grew up in a household where profanity was the vernacular and “survival of the fittest” was the motto. No meek shall inherit the earth, no turning the other cheek or any other teaching from CCD. Sweet nothings were as foreign a language as Uzbek and crying was anathema. When my dad first read this column, he indignantly argued, “That’s bullshit.” He didn’t read many of columns afterwards.
So one of my Valentine’s Day resolutions will be to be more affectionate with my kids, my family and my friends, even to be affectionate and kind to some of the scurrilous among us. Now, this is hard and uncomfortable because I’m not use to it, but I’ll try.
For my friends, the store clerk and the others I have met, their random words of kindness come spontaneously from within. For me, for a time, I must practice deliberate words of kindness and hope that this habit will become spontaneous too.
Remember, according to a Chinese proverb: “a bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.” Aw, sweetness!
P.S. Thank yo, Eloisa!