Feb. 14, 2008. My 19th single Valentine’s Day.
All things considered, I was doing pretty well. While the rest of the ACU population obsessed over candy hearts and red roses, I was on my way to Bible class, just like any other Thursday.
I already had received a grade-school-reminiscent paper Valentine and some candy from a friend back home, and I knew my father would send his traditional gift of Godiva chocolates some way or other. People cared about me; I didn’t need a significant other to feel loved.
Only an innocuous-looking letter from my mom awaited me in my mailbox that V-day, and I didn’t think anything of it.
Already planning how to balance my homework and Optimist assignment for the next week, I walked into Hart Auditorium, grabbing a seat dead center, on the third row or so, and absentmindedly tore open the envelope encasing Mom’s letter.
Unfolding the multiple sheets of Xeroxed paper, I slowly began to realize this wasn’t just any letter. Staring up at me from the crinkled sheets was a headline and subsequent article reassuring readers, “It’s ok to be single on Valentine’s Day; God loves you.”
In slight disbelief, I quickly scanned the article, making sure its message was, in fact, what I’d already perceived. It was.
The article’s message wasn’t untrue.
But it also wasn’t a message any normal single person wants to read on the one day a year that so ostentatiously celebrates couples. There’s something especially demeaning about someone pointing out your singlehood on Valentine’s Day – all in Christian love, of course. Receiving that letter transformed the tone of my day.
Suddenly, a pleasant morning became a dreary, depressed afternoon.
I had to consider the facts: I was single, in a ring-by-spring culture, at an age when my parents already had been dating for months, on what could easily be considered the loneliest day of the year.
Although the letter sought to console singles with the assurance of God’s love, it glaringly proclaimed a cross to bear what only moments before I’d considered a perfectly normal, fulfilling life.
Love you too, Mom.
At the end of the day, I had to remember we were coming from two different perspectives. She had meant to be encouraging, not patronizing. So maybe it really is the thought that counts.
My choices: wallow in perceived pity or brush it off and continue my Thursday.
Honestly, I probably wallowed more than I’d like to admit on that particular Valentine’s Day. But from that year on, I strove to remember that generous gestures, however poorly placed, represent a loving intention.
I learned it’s more valuable to appreciate the sender than critique the message.
Well, that, and I vowed never to open another letter from Mom on Valentine’s Day. Sometimes, even the most well-intentioned messages just need to wait.