One February 14 years ago, I picked up my boy, Robert, from school. He was about 9 and he wanted to go straight home but I needed to stop at the grocery store. He was a little crabby about the delay and asked if he could stay in the car instead of trundle through Harris Teeter with me. Sure, I said, but do me a favor and count all the men you see leaving the store with flowers.
He looked at me like sideways but shrugged and said he would.
I was in the store no more than 10 minutes. When I came back he was bouncing on the seat with wide eyes.
There were twenty-seven, Susan! Twenty-seven men with flowers! There’s another! Twenty-eight! He looked at me curiously, Why are all those men buying flowers?
It’s Valentine’s Day. It’s tradition, I told him. (And money-making marketing.) Romance, I told him. (And peer/culture pressure.) It’s a way to say I love you, I told him. (Without actually saying anything.)
I explained that originally the holiday was a celebration of romantic love but that in our family and in his school, it was just about love. It was a day to tell the people you care about how important they are to you and the best way to do that is in your own words.
These days, the word I love on Valentine’s Day is courage. In this week of champagne and candy, in a culture that values the money spent in place of connection vulnerably made, what we need is courage. As Brene Brown says,
Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’
Our culture creates lots of ways to spend money and avoid true connection with each other. If I buy you a bouquet, I don’t have to say what you really mean to me. It can be scary to tell from the heart, so why not buy some earrings and call it done?
Rather than buying flowers or chocolates or diamonds, show your heart. Courageously say how much you love the people in your life…and not just romantic partners. Friends, colleagues, family, children, everyone. (If you want to do that on a beautiful, hand-made card, go for it! If you don’t make it yourself, here are some awesome ones.)
To speak up, to say what is important, to reveal yourself are acts of courage and acts of love. May this be the focus of both Valentine’s Day and Brownies for Breakfast on February 18.
I was actually surprised that day in the Harris Teeter parking lot by the sheer number of blossom-bearing men (as I was yesterday in Whole Foods to see a similar parade men with flowers in their baskets). I hope they (and their partners) demonstrated not just floral generosity but also courage to tell all their hearts.