Written By Hannah Shoue, USA
I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.
I understand dedicating a day to celebrating love, but somehow I’ve never been able to reconcile the ideal of love with the paraphernalia associated with the holiday. The deluge of teddy bears, chocolates, roses, and over-priced jewelry, all in alarming shades of pink and red, have often felt more like the trappings of a false and materialistic love rather than a symbol of true, authentic love to me.
Last year was the first time I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a special someone—not that I hadn’t cut out paper hearts, received chocolates and flowers, or exchanged gifts before, but the latter had always just been between friends.
I remember feeling an increasing sense of nervousness and anxiety about actually celebrating Valentine’s Day with a significant other. Approaching the day, I agonized over what I was going to get David, my boyfriend, and what I should write on his card. We had only been dating a little over a month at the time, so this was the first exchange of gifts and cards for us. I was terrified of messing it up.
I finally settled on giving him a Lord of the Rings (LOTR) poster to spruce up his bare bedroom walls—a major contrast from my own poster-plastered room. My card included a LOTR quote and a heartfelt message about the difference I had already felt in my life after one month of us dating. I received a bag of chocolates, fuzzy socks, and my own Nerf gun from David (for use in our frequent battles with his nieces and nephews). He also read me a beautiful poem that he had written, which I still have tucked away in the pages of my Bible. My anxiety turned out to be unfounded; we both loved our respective gifts and cards.
Once this requisite exchange was conducted, we then set off on our planned adventure for the day. We had chosen roller skating for our inaugural Valentine’s adventure since we knew it would be an activity we would both enjoy. True to our expectations, we ended our session sporting matching ear-to-ear grins.
I leaned against David as we sat on a bench taking off our skates, filled with warm fuzzy feelings and beginning to think my previous skepticism towards Valentine’s Day might have been misplaced. Just then, we noticed an elderly man approaching our bench.
“Now,” the old man said as he held up his hand when he reached us, “I don’t want to offend your girlfriend or anything, but I just wanted to say that she has the prettiest smile I have seen in a long time.” David and I looked at each other in surprise.
“She does indeed,” David agreed, smiling at me.
“Don’t get me wrong or anything. I’m married, I ain’t a pervert, I promise. I just wanted you to know that she has one of the prettiest smiles I have seen in a long time,” the old man said with a smile.
“She certainly does, sir, thank you.” David replied.
“Yes, thank you,” I added as the man shuffled away.
It touched my heart that a random stranger had taken the effort to compliment me on my smile, making that day just a little sweeter.
Reflecting on the episode, I believe that the old man embodies what Valentine’s Day should really be about. It shouldn’t just be a day for couples to celebrate; neither should it just be about the roses or the chocolates or the exchange of gifts, whether between lovers or friends. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone took time on Valentine’s Day to sweeten someone else’s day and spread more love in the world? After all, isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do—to love our neighbor as ourselves?
One year on, the old man’s kind comment still stands out in our memories when David and I reflect on our first Valentine’s Day together. And this Valentine’s Day, we want to pay it forward and sweeten someone else’s day as well.