Putting the Heart Back into Valentine's Day - N. J. Lindquist

Putting the Heart Back into Valentine’s Day


Every time I think about Valentine’s Day, I remember the inevitable Charlie Brown cartoon with Charlie dreaming of all the Valentine’s cards he would get and then finding his mail box empty. I always sympathized.

I still remember Valentine’s Day in elementary school. We put our cards into a decorated box, and then the box was opened and the cards distributed. It was always agony for me. I was neither popular nor an outcast, but I dreaded Valentine’s Day.

I’m still not crazy about it, but for different reasons.

Since Christmas, every time I go into a store I’m bombarded by all the things I can buy for Valentine’s Day. Well, I don’t like feeling obligated to buy things to show my love—especially things no one really needs. I mean—who decided that chocolates and stuffed animals and four-dollar commercially produced cards are necessary to prove you love somebody? Why not red apples in a heart-shaped box? Handwritten notes? Walks in the park? A hug?

I decided to check out the origins of Valentine’s Day. It turns out there are a number of different theories, ranging from February 14th being the day birds chose their mates, to old Roman festivals for chasing away wolves (?), to a priest who married young couples in spite of the emperor’s having forbidden marriage. (Rome was at war and the emperor thought bachelors fought better than married men.)

The story I like best is the one about an early Roman Christian named Valentine who was imprisoned because of his faith. Among his friends were many children who tossed notes of concern and love through the bars of his cell. Unfortunately, he was executed on February 14th. Later, this day was named St. Valentine’s Day after the martyr.

Cool. The thought of having a day to remind us to cheer up other people intrigues me—like maybe it could actually do some good.

I was tempted to send a card to Charlie Brown, but no matter how much I’ve loved him through the years, he was only a cartoon character. So I thought about who else I could send a Valentine to, and I came up with a list.

All people who clean washrooms in public places. What would we do without you?

All who put their garbage into the right containers, put their shopping carts back where they belong, and in general try to care for the environment. Yeah!

All who cook balanced meals for other people who turn up their noses or grumble (like children and hospital patients). Whether we like it or not, the right food is very important to our health.

All who wait on other people in some way—cashiers, sales clerks, waitresses and waiters…. We may take you for granted, but we need you just the same.

All who work as doctors, nurses, therapists, aides, and orderlies, and are finding your jobs stressful from all the changes. Your patients may range from grumpy to clinging, but they all desperately need your smiling face.

All who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or cerebral palsy or another life-impacting disease. Don’t ever think that what you are doing isn’t important.

All who have a child struggling with social, emotional, or intellectual problems. Don’t give up. Your encouragement and acceptance are vital.

All who are trying to be there for a friend or loved one with an emotional problem.

All who are wondering what to do with the rest of their lives.

All who are struggling financially.

All who have regrets.

All who are afraid.

All who feel alone.

Anyone reading this who needs a little bit of cheer.

ValentineCard with writingConsider this my Valentine to you. I think you are a Very Important Person!

Now I’m sure I’ve left someone out. So…maybe each one of us, either today or in the days to come, could do one practical thing for someone we know who might need a little cheering up. If we each did something, maybe no one would be left out. Well, except maybe Charlie Brown.

Of course, they do say giving is more fun than getting….I wonder if Charlie ever discovered that?


Read the original version of this article and more in my free book, Bastketballs in the Living Room: Thoughts on Families and Life 
  • Donelda Bradley says:

    Thank you for posting this great article. Love it!

  • Heather Walker says:

    This year (2017) I will write approximately 50 Valentines and include them in parcels of cookies which I will share during the Monday’s with Michelle on Feb 13th because we are downtown at that time feeding the homeless. I thought it was especially important to let them know that they are loved and prayed for throughout this difficult season of their lives.

  • Marianne Jones says:

    I love this! Especially acknowledging people in the retail industry who get more grief and abuse than we realize. I don’t see Valentines Day as a day of romance, but as one of appreciation and caring.

    • njlindquist says:

      Lately, I’ve heard an ad from a florist several times, and it drives me crazy. Basically, it says, “Buy her the besxt flowers you can and send them to her office so she can flaunt them in front of her co-workers.” Unfortunately, for many people it does become that sort of thing.

  • osborne2029 says:

    Hi N.J.

    I would add this one for acts of kindness. Those who take time to get your car out of the snow and ask nothing in return. In the small community of Ramore and surrounding areas of northern Ontario, stuck cars are a common occurrence. About a week ago our next door neighbours on a very cold day, took time to get our car unstuck from our driveway. They gave of their time and energy to help us out. We nominate them for a Valentine award.

    Yes, Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be about giving expensive gifts, Guys, how about on Valentine’s Day cooking a supper of caring for your wife? You save on the cost of an expensive supper out. Your wife feels more loved that you took time to cook a special supper.

    Perhaps, like Christmas, every day should be Valentine’s Day, giving the gift of our heart to others.

  • […] Read my Valentine’s Day article, “Putting the Heart Back into Valentine’s Day.&#82… […]

  • Donna Bradley says:

    This is a refreshing read all the way through. A kind thought or deed speaks volumes.

  • sally says:

    Great reminder to think outside the box. Yesterday, I had a thought to.buy a few TIm Horton gift çards and give it to a few Target store employees who have to go through the liquidation process, knowing their jobs are coming to an end.
    On a side note, my husband always gave a single rose to me and to each of my four daughters on Valentine Day. To this day, a single.rose has great significance to each of us.

    • njlindquist says:

      Love your idea of giving gift cards to Target employees who have lost their jobs!

      Lovely tradition with the roses. So wish he was still here to enjoy his growing family. But I’m sure he’s watching closely.

      N. J.

  • N. J. says:

    Peter, I sometimes wonder if my grandkids think we don’t like them – we’ve never given them anything for Valentine’s Day. Hopefully they just think we’re too old to get into it.

    No, we don’t give them Easter eggs either. Sigh.

    What we did for our kids was buy candy after the holiday when it was on sale. :)

  • Peter Black says:

    Heh! Heh! NJ.

    My Beloved and I, in regard to Valentine’s Day, are much like you and your hubby; we can do without it, ourselves.

    That said, your post and list are wonderful! Great ideas for extending one’s reach and bringing meaning and encouragement to those who in some way really need it. Thank you.

    I fess up however, that my wife does in our behalf for the grandkids what we don’t do for ourselves, by getting Valentine’s goodies for them. She also buys chocolates (or whatever) for the parents and helps our youngest granddaughter make giant cards to go with them.

    (Hmm I do have an inner scruple on that — but it’s a minor one! :) )

  • N. J. says:

    Ruth Ann, thanks for your kind words. (And Janet, thanks for sharing my post!)

  • Ruth Ann Adams says:

    This is so beautiful, Janet, a lovely way of saying Happy Valentine’s Day to the many people in our world who may get taken for granted. You are right. Gratitude says a lot more than mere commercialism ever can. Thank you for a unique and uplifting Valentine!!

  • […] What if we intentionally used our words for encouragement? Please click over to read the full post: Putting the Heart Back in Valentine’s Day. […]

  • N. J. says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments and shares. Much appreciated.


    Loved the blog. So many people we take for granted and you managed to list many of them. Who needs chocolates during Lent anyway!

  • Your list is a thoughtful inclusion of people we often don’t thank. Good post, and I like the header.

  • Brenda Nixon says:

    Nice blog! Happy Valentine’s Day.

  • Janis Cox says:

    Just beautiful. We don’t “celebrate” Valentine’s Day as it has become so commercialized. But I like your take on it. Encourage each other. Love each other.
    Here is to a great Valentine’s Day to you.

  • Eric E Wright says:

    A very refreshing way to approach what could be a routine day.

  • Jenny Svetec says:

    I love this! What a great way to pull up out of the sloppish romantic mess that Valentine’s has become and now to turn and make something beautiful out of the holiday! I hope we each do at least one random note of encouragement, one word, one act – it will revitalize our hearts and theirs! Thanks for this excellent post!

  • N. J. says:

    Thanks for the kind words everyone! I’ve been busy here trying to figure out how to change our header to put our new logo up – finally got it – ta da! (Usually easy but not today some reason.)

    Now I need to figure out how to make the comments words more visible. But you all found them!

    I have never ever ever ever liked Valentine’s Day or any other day where “people” (mostly trying to make money) tell me I have to do something. I think it actually does more harm than good by making more people feel depressed or guilty than loved or appreciated. Obligation kills any joy for me.

    As for romance, I’m sorry, Heather, but I disagree; if people really need an outside reminder to buy a box of candy or roses then they have a problem. I’ve been married over 40 years and have never been given candy or flowers on Valentine’s Day from my husband and I really don’t care. It’s what happens day after day that matters.

    Wendy, true confession. I actually wrote this in 1998 for my column in the Markham Economist and Sun. But I had never posted it and last night I remembered it and thought this was the perfect time. :)

  • Great post, N. J. Good way to kick things off on your new blog.

    We were both thinking — quite independently — about bringing new meaning to Valentine’s Day.
    Quite funny, because neither knew what the other one was working on.
    Love the points you make.

  • Heather says:

    I agree. Valentine’s Day should be for everyone to know they’re loved–not just for romance. But it still is nice to have a reminder every year to make romance a priority.

  • Ann Brent says:

    Great article and a wonderful challenge. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Oh — a day to cheer other people up — intentional encouragement! This is something I can embrace.

  • Lois Rooney-Giurin says:

    Very well stated. I wonder how many of us ever actually looked forward to Valentine’s Day in school? Aside from the obligatory class party, that is.

    Nice list. I’m sure most of us can find a spot in the list you’ve created.

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