Saturday, February 15, 2014

After Valentine's Day: What Next?

Our high-spirited Valentine’s Day has passed. Can we continue another week or month on a high note? 

Here’s a story to help keep your spirit up.

Valentine’s Day began with Valentinus, a third century Christian on trial in Rome. Generously, he performed a miracle for his judge’s daughter. WONDERFUL! Right? But in gratitude the grateful judge released all jailed Christians under his jurisdiction. That was AWFUL, at least to pagan Emperor Claudius II. Hatefully, Claudius II martyred Valentine but Christians got a saint whose influence has lasted.

Valentine’s Day in modern times is far removed from a saint and martyrdom. It has morphed into an annual high point of romantic love

High-spirited romanticizing starts early in life. As I experienced the day in Tacoma’s Oakland Elementary School, the twenty-some kids in each classroom would exchange a “be my Valentine” card. I mailed cards to other age-mates too, such as cousins and friends in other schools. I received a card from nearly every age-mate I knew, friend or foe, and I felt loved! Cards cost about 5 cents each and stamps, when needed, about 3 cents. Communicating love was cheaply done.

I opened each card and read the loving sentiment: “be my Valentine.” Whatever that might have meant at that age and in that era, with thirty-some messages taped to my wall from kids who absolutely adored me, I felt great. The next day, real life conflicts, arguments and insults began all over again.

But how did it work for adults?
In my church community six decades ago at 6 p.m. every February 14, husbands, wives, singles, teenage sweethearts and children would gather in the highly decorated social hall for a great evening of feasting, teasing and storytelling.

The big room was packed every year. Everyone wanted a place at the table. Preparations for the event took days, if not weeks.

Valentine’s Day was the annual high point of joy every year for the congregation, and it was very democratic, all-inclusive, no hostilities, and just joyful fun. But in the next board meeting, or in messy gossip around the edges, competition for control arrived like a plague.

After emotional high points like Valentine’s Day, experience suggests that it might be difficult to avoid an emotional crash as we return to the routine of work, studies and personal budget crises.

How, then, might we keep our spirits up?

The original significance of Saint Valentine’s Day consisted of a simple man performing an act of Christian love for an enemy, the judge that likely would sentence him. Valentine's act and the faith supporting it helped him through the biggest downer of all: that of being cruelly executed simply for his faith. 

I want to remember in the days ahead that I can be more joyful in the real world through the power of faith and love, like St. Valentine.

Please leave a comment: how do you keep up your merriment and joy in the days after an emotional high?


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