I hate Valentine’s Day. It’s a made-up holiday fueled by jewelers, florists, candy makers, and advertisers who make us feel we need to overspend, and then make us feel like losers if what we receive doesn’t live up to our expectations. Rubbish! If someone loves me, I see it in his eyes, I feel it in his touch, I experience it in how he treats me every day.
However. Years and years ago, when I was very immature (i.e., I thought I had everything figured out and wasn’t shy about sharing my opinions), I announced my boycott of the holiday to the sweet man I was dating. The look on his face…he was crushed. I came to discover he had made plans for a lovely yet simple evening and had selected a couple of very thoughtful gifts. I felt like such a turd! Because when I thought about it, I knew how much I loved giving gifts to the people I loved, how much I enjoyed surprising them, delighting them, and making them feel special. Shame on me for taking that away from him.
Since then, I’ve learned to graciously accept the gifts I receive, whatever their origin, motivation, or price tag. My dad still sends me a card on this day, and I keep them among my treasures. I consider myself a rich woman indeed when I receive a sheet of construction paper decorated with abstract images in crayon (“That’s you and Jake on the playground,” my sister explains. Of course!). I might get a call from a far-flung friend and spend 10 precious minutes catching up with her. Looking at the bigger picture, every day I give thanks for the gifts of good health, a job that I love, and a roof over my head.
Today is a tough day for many people. It’s so easy to fall into self-pity, to catalogue what we lack instead of counting our blessings. So today I invite you to join me in acknowledging and accepting our gifts, whatever form they may take. Then, think about what you can give of yourself to make this day lovelier for someone else.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Tonight she’ll be surprising the love of her life with his favorite treat, a home-baked cherry pie.