Share the Love
When I was a kid, one of the best days of the school year was February 14. It was a sure thing that on that day, I’d be leaving school with chocolates and other sweet pleasures. At the neighborhood school I attended, Valentine’s Day was always celebrated in class with an exchange of small cards and goodies from classmates. It was an unspoken rule that each child would show up with enough treats to share with everyone in the entire class. If you had friends that you were closer to, you’d perhaps bring a few more for them, but the baseline was that everyone would be shown a little love that day and feel included.
As time went on, that shifted. In middle school and high school, it seemed that Valentine’s Day was less about expressing your love and affection for friends and classmates. Instead, the focus became the person that you were dating or at least had high hopes that after Valentine’s Day and whatever gesture you extended to show your interest, they would consider paying you more attention. This more singular view on Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to emphasize romantic love stretched on in my orbit through at least my mid-twenties. To my delight, the focus then shifted again.
I have been single for more years than I have been in relationships, but every year, if I am dating someone or not, a man sends me a Valentine’s Day card. For almost two decades now, my brother has brought a smile to my face by reminding me that I’m loved with a card. He actually has a habit of sending two cards. One that is sentimental, and another that always evokes a belly laugh.
On the other side of the country, in California, I have a buddy who takes an approach similar to what it was like in elementary school with his Valentine’s Day card distribution. Each January, he does a query on his social media asking for all his friends and family to fill out a form he’s created to confirm or update their mailing addresses. He uses that list to send everyone a card with a handwritten message. It’s the sweetest thing and people, including myself, look forward to it.
One of my most cherished Valentine’s Day memories as an adult is a group dinner with friends at one of their homes that was followed by a cupcake tasting. Every guest was asked to bring homemade cupcakes or several from their favorite bakeries. The food, wine, laughter, cupcakes, and great energy of the evening reminded me that’s what love tastes like, sounds like, feels like, and looks like. There are several types of love and Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate all of them, not just eros or passionate love.
From showing up at the bank as soon as they opened so that I could deliver sprinkle donuts to the staff that I chat with and who have answered more questions from me than any other customer, to coming to work with those delicious heart-shaped bo-berry biscuits to share with colleagues, there are many ways and many people that I’ve had the joy of sharing some Valentine’s Day love with.
Perhaps, it’s because of what I’ve learned by watching my mom move through the world, too. Last year after a long hospital stay, she was sent to an acute rehabilitation facility. In the midst of her recovery and numerous physical and occupation therapy sessions, she’d made it a point to call my siblings and direct them to go to the store to purchase bags of chocolate and have them to her before the holiday. She insisted that on Valentine’s Day she needed candy to pass out to staff throughout the building—not just her nurses, aides, therapists, and doctor—it needed to be enough to share with the folks in the kitchen, the front desk, and whoever was doing maintenance on her floor that day too.
Her delight in telling us the reactions of people who were surprised and appreciated the gesture was priceless. Kindness, joy, and love have ripple effects and I think we can all agree that our world could use more.
This Valentine’s Day, share some special love with your partner, but also be sure to share some with yourself, friends, family, and anyone else that you care about in your community. A little love goes a long way.▼
Clarence J. Fluker is a public affairs and social impact strategist. Since 2008, he’s also been a contributing writer for Swerv, a lifestyle periodical celebrating African American LGBTQ+ culture and community. Follow him on Instagram: @Mr_CJFluker.