The week leading up to Valentine’s Day involved for me a move to Virginia, a head cold, and a snowstorm with 19 inches of snow. For my boyfriend, it involved a really hectic work week, going to see his sister star in a play, and of course, helping me move and buying me lots of soup and medicine for my cold. Needless to say, neither of us had invested much time into thinking about Valentine’s Day. At the end of the day, my boyfriend came up to me with a puppy dog face and asked me if I was disappointed. When I asked him why, he commented on all the posts he had seen on Facebook; photos of flowers and chocolates with gushing praise.
Here is why his question surprised me. Yes, I had no flowers and no romantic, expensive dinner. Here’s what happened instead. My boyfriend let me sleep in while he shoveled 19 inches of snow off both our cars. When I finally came out to help, he started a snowball “fight,” which really involved him pelting me repeatedly with snowballs because I have no aim. Then, we drove around until we finally found a casual Mexican restaurant that was open. For dinner that night, he made a casserole. In a nod to the holiday, he made mini chocolate lava cakes, which I have to admit were pretty awesome. But, he does most of the cooking anyway, so it really could have been any typical night.
I really didn’t do a darn thing. Still, he was afraid that he had disappointed me because a move, a cold, and a snowstorm came and we weren’t able to have a traditional Valentine’s Day.
But let me tell you what else I have seen during the course of this week. I saw an elderly man offering to shovel snow off his neighbor’s car. I had a couple offer to drive me back to my apartment after they saw me trudging through the snow to get groceries. I saw neighbors trying to help a doctor get his car started who, from the context, was trying to get to the hospital on what was guaranteed to be a hectic day so that he could help others. I saw kids playing a game to see who could clear the most snow off a car.
These acts of love and kindness, whether based in romance, familial love, or just neighborly friendliness, are what made my Valentine’s Day. Unlike most “Hallmark” holidays, love didn’t come in a defined package. I could see it, genuinely, all around me. And unlike the posts my boyfriend was seeing on Facebook, love was primarily used to bring people together, not to inspire envy or jealousy and thus tear people apart.
I’m not pointing fingers, getting on a soapbox, or condemning Valentine’s traditions here. I’ll be the first to admit that I, too, posted on Facebook about how wonderful I thought my significant other was. And I will also admit that it was a little hard to let go of those traditional expectations, even when they were absolutely impossible to achieve. But after a few days’ reflection, I am, simply, inspired. Next Valentine’s Day, I plan on sharing and celebrating the type of love that brings people together, whether they be romantic partners, families, friends or whole communities. Helpfulness. Gratitude. Sincere empathy. Joy. And optimism. Isn’t that what love is all about?