Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day Generosity: Lessons from Kindergarten

I used to love Valentine's Day - making imperfect hearts out of pink paper to cover in glue and glitter and gleefully put into each classmate's envelope, also decorated and sticky with glue, hanging from the chalkboard railing.  Everyone got a valentine, but a little extra love went into the ones for boys I was crushing on, or for my best friend.  When did it all go wrong?  When did I decide to wear mourning blacks and protest Valentine's Day on principle?

Last year, even though I didn't have a romantic relationship to celebrate, I had an odd, warm-the-cockles-of-my-heart feeling as I passed by, of all places, Aahs, and it's ridiculously over the top Valentine's Day display.  I was hopeful that it might offer a chance for people to tell others they love them, to remind friends of why their relationships are so important, to give adults a reason to relish pink and red and glue glitter on construction paper.

This year, I started thinking about Valentine's Day when my friend Jessika posted this photo. Weeks before V day, her little girl had created a special valentine to make the new girl in class feel welcome.  

In an interview on Kindness, one of my favorite poets, Naomi Shihab Nye commented that, "We're surrounded by talk and language and reporting and stories of a certain kind, the 'breaking news' kind, but I think we hunger for another kind of story, the story that helps us just feel connected with one another, be with one another. A slower kind of empathy. I think we hunger for that now more than ever."

I love stories of connectedness.  I love kids (and co-workers) who really see their class or cubicle-mates and want to make sure they feel welcome, that they belong. I even love some dopey dude who needs a gentle consumer-driven reminder to tell his heart-throb that he has feelings for him/her.

I hope this Valentine's Day, with Eve Ensler's V-Day One Billion Rising, encouraging people to dance to demand the end of violence against women, and with Brené Brown reminding us that it's also Generosity Day, that we"Give to people on the street.  Tip outrageously.  Help a stranger.  Write a note telling someone how much you appreciate them.  Smile.  Donate (more) to a cause that means a lot to you.  Take clothes to GoodWill.  Share your toys (grownups and kids).  Be patient with yourself and with others.  Replace the toilet paper in the bathroom.  All generous acts count!" 

Pay attention to people — who knows who might need a non-Valentine's valentine today?

I'm down with these V-Day cards:

(See more Wes Anderson valentines at FlavorWire)


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