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Friday, January 27, 2017

Five Alternative Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day

I don’t know about you, but I need another holiday.  

Right now.

I mean, it’s been a really rough ride since November 8th but then, at least, there was Christmas. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the speech on Inauguration Day left me stunned and cold.  

Everything we feared is now a reality.

The Women’s March – three million women and our allies marching on the nation’s capitol and in cities around this country and even more around the world – gave me reason to hope.

As I look at the calendar, the only thing we have to buffer the ongoing nightmare that is the opening days and weeks of this new administration and Lent – well, except for St. Paddy’s Day – is St. Valentine’s Day.

The thing about Valentine’s Day is that it’s for “lovers”. Which is fine if you’ve got a lover. Not to diminish the necessity of lovers – I mean, I’d like to think of myself as one – but it seems to me that the times we are in call us to shift the emphasis just a bit. 

It's important to remember the history of St. Valentine. He was ordered beaten and beheaded for performing secret marriages even though the Roman emperor "Claudius the Cruel" had banned all marriages

In this Age of Cruel Trumpism, where hate and bigotry, fear and oppression, and “alternative facts” seem to be around every corner – screaming from every newspaper, every radio, every television program – the one thing everyone needs to celebrate is love.

I'm not talking about 'gushy, chocolate candy kisses' kind of love, lovely as that is. 

I'm talking about the kind of radical love that St. Valentine had, that risks personal safety and security for love. I'm talking about the kind of radical love that changes the familiar and sends us off into the unknown and uncertain. I'm talking about the kind of love that turns things upside down and makes them right again.

Incarnate love. Active love. Loving out loud. 

That's what I'm talking about.

So, I’ve come up with some “alternative ways” to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day which, I hope, will help get us through the darkness of Lent and through to the day when we celebrate The Resurrection.

1. Show some gratitude. Actively thank those who serve. In any spiritual activity, it’s really important to begin with gratitude. It is especially important to make the effort to express gratitude to people who serve who might not otherwise hear a “thank you.” Do you know who takes your trash or recycling? Find out. Get up early in the morning and greet them. Or, leave a thank you note on your trash bin. 

Go to your local police or fire station and thank the men and women who work there. Hate war? Me too. So do many people in the military. That's why they're there. Thank a soldier. 

Try to find the address of your favorite teacher in grade or high school and send them a thank you letter. Have they already passed away? Write a letter to them anyway and say a little prayer of gratitude for what you learned from them. As my grandmother would say, "It’s good for your soul."

Call your mother, if you can. No, really. Call her. She’ll be so happy to hear your voice and so grateful that you called you won’t even have to say anything more than, “Hi, Mom. Just thought I’d call and hear your voice see how you were doing.” Don’t text. Call. Trust me on this. And, if you can’t because she's already passed on or unable to comprehend, write her a letter then put it away in your drawer. Even the worst mother did one thing right. Thank her for that.

My grandmother was right. It really is "good for your soul."

2. Love your neighbor. I know. We church people say that a lot. It’s supposed to be one of the tenants of our faith. Most of us give it little more than lip service. We think it’s a passive thing, that if we don’t actively hurt them or just ignore them, we’re loving them. 

I'm talking about actually showing a little love to a neighbor. 

Don’t know your neighbor? Make it a point to knock on a door and introduce yourself. Bring a small token of love – some cookies, a cupcake, a loaf of bread. See someone in the yard or getting into the car or picking up the mail? Stop by and try to start a conversation that will lay the foundation for a neighborly relationship. 

We’re really going to need each other in the weeks and months ahead. It’s important to know who’s out there. Start right were you are. And then, remember how Rabbi Jesus defined “neighbor” and slowly widen your circle.

3. Consider those who are struggling. Once you’ve warmed up your “love muscles” you can start to stretch them. Who are the people in your community who may need a little help? Is there a single mom or dad? Has there been a layoff at a local factory or a chain store or restaurant closing? 

Is there an elderly person living alone who needs human contact – or a ride to a doctor’s office – or someone to do her grocery shopping? How might you be able to make a small difference in that person, that family’s day? 

Just one random act of kindness can change the world for one moment, one day in a long string of days which seem filled with more moments of cruelty and anxiety than they can tolerate. It also helps you get your mind off your own worries and appreciate your own blessings. 

Remember ancient scripture: “You are blessed to be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)

4. Encourage one another. These are dangerous, discouraging times. As this administration is demonstrating daily, we are headed into even darker days. Even on a good day, I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use a little encouragement. 

Well, I know I sure could. I suspect we all need an occasional “atta boy” or “atta girl”. Take the time to do that. Lord knows, we’re surrounded by negativity. Make a decision to look for the positive – a tiny spark of goodness, an ember of hope – and find ways to fan it. 

We are going to need to be strong and clear and bold and summon up every day, ordinary as well as extraordinary courage in order to protect our friends and families and neighbors. In order to do that, it helps to be kind with each other and regularly encourage each other.   

Did you catch that?  “Encourage” in order to HAVE “courage”. That’s not just clever. It works. 

5. Love yourself. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with your whole heart and your whole soul and your whole mind, and second unto it is to love your neighbor as yourself. 

So, it starts with love of God, which is best expressed in gratitude. It also begins with loving yourself. That means taking care of yourself. 

Begin with the basics: Decide to eat less processed foods. More fruits. More vegetables. Laugh more. Tell silly jokes. Decide to turn off all screens – TV, laptop, smart phone – an hour before bed. Exercise – start with five minutes a day and then work up to fifteen. Start with easy stuff. Go for a walk. Eat an apple. Get some sleep. 

Be your own best friend so you can be a good friend to others and cultivate and appreciate good friends for yourself. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Pat yourself on the back every once in a while. 

Stop sabotaging yourself from getting the things you want and need. I have a friend who wistfully sighs, “Oh, I’d really like _____, BUT…..” She does that at least once an hour. If you do that, when you hear yourself say, “Oh, I’d really like _____,” stop yourself before the BUT. Start thinking about how it is you can achieve what it is you really want and need. If you can do that for yourself, you’ll be able to do it for others.

So, there it is. Five ways to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. Start with love. Be a lover of God’s world – God’s people and creatures and creation. I’m convinced that the only way we’re going to get through these next four years is to concentrate on love. Make love a priority. Let love be your motivating force.

What I’ve learned from my years of activism during the Vietnam years, the years of Nixon corruption, “trickle-down Reagan economics,” and the AIDS crisis is that bold, courageous action on the part of ordinary citizens can stop a war, impeach a president and cause him to resign office; it can change the nation’s economics and transform a terminal disease to one that is still terminal but manageable as a chronic, long-term illness.

The Civil Rights Movement is another example of how ordinary citizens - even those who are sore oppressed - can do what was once thought impossible and turn around an evil system of prejudice and bigotry. At least at the legal level. 

We can do this. It’s going to take ordinary, every day shy people to eat some powdermilk biscuits from Lake Wobegon to find the strength to get up and do what needs to be done. 

The secret ingredient to that recipe is love. 

As Louie Crew Clay would say, "The meek are getting ready."

Love has always been at the center of every successful revolution - and even a few that failed the first time. Love is the seed from which everything grows - people, neighborhoods, communities, change, new life. Even government. 

I think of the Constitution of the United States of America as a legal love letter.

Oh, and by the way, this is what the prophet Micah meant when he said, "Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8). But, I think the order is in reverse. First, you walk humbly (some translations say "attentively") with God. That makes it so much easier to love mercy. And then, if you love mercy, you have no choice but to do justice.

On this St. Valentine's day, let's all declare ourselves "lovers". Let's take time to really celebrate - and incarnate - love. 

PS: Is it too soon to have another Women's March?


Brother David said...

Oh, we need a celebration,
Right this very minute.
We need a celebration,
with carols at the Spinet.


I couldn’t help myself! :D

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

We sure do. Listening to the news tonight, with the executive order for "extreme vetting", I want to throw up. Well, it's unconstitutional so he will be sued and it will be overturned. Time for some members of the GOP to grow a couple pair.

Marthe said...

Okay. Working on it. But I'm still splurging on some dark Godiva truffles 'cause it just ain't a party without good chocolates. :-)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Chocolate? My girl! I'm so there!