This week I was asked to speak to a group about what sort of decorations we put up in my home for Valentine’s Day. I took this opportunity to explain that though we don’t decorate in my home for Valentine’s, that is not because we don’t value the day. Rather than set aside a day, we try to do things in my home throughout the year for one another that express the kind of love which Valentine’s Day seems to be set aside to encourage people to express. And the thought came back to me that Valentine’s Day really is not a day set aside for doing loving or romantic things for special people in our lives; it is a day originally set aside to remember Saint Valentine: a figure (or several figures) who lived a life filled with sacrificial service for his fellow man.
In contemporary American society, we have long dropped off the word “Saint” from “Saint Valentine’s Day” and I don’t know why. No one really knows much about Saint Valentine himself anymore, but I know you can read all about the research on Valentine on several websites if you wish. Admittedly there is a lot of mythology to sort through. What I do trust is that he didn’t receive sainthood because he loved people only one day out of the year. He probably loved people, and demonstrated it meaningfully, throughout the year. Remembering him on Saint Valentine’s Day could motivate us to do similarly for others. Valentine’s Day compels us to buy such items as chocolates, cards, flowers, etc. but Saint Valentine’s Day can motivate and remind us to love people genuinely, repeatedly, and sacrificially throughout the year.
Observing life in China reminds me there is not even a Valentine’s Day in that culture, much less a Saint Valentine’s Day.
But there are increasing numbers of examples I see of people loving one another, and increasingly we see evidence of the disadvantaged and destitute receiving care. I was touched deeply to see the response of a paraplegic boy receiving the gift of a warm blanket provided to him by one of my friends visiting China last year. I hope that the dozens of passersby on the sidewalk corner that day might in some small way have been touched and possibly even motivated to do something thoughtful and loving for a needy person in their lives. There is so much need! I thrill to think of how we might see in the future increasing episodes such as these taking place in that land — and my own. For now, both desperately need a Saint Valentine’s Day on the calendar.