What’s the big deal about Valentine’s Day?

You probably know that February 14 has something to do with a saint named Valentino. It’s not his birthday or the day he was sainted. February 14 is the anniversary of the day–about 1,750 years ago–that he was beheaded in Rome, martyred for his faith.

His life and death have nothing to do with romance or buying flowers and chocolates. His name doesn’t mean lover; it means brave, strong one.

Valentino’s legacy should be his courage to lay down his life and stand up for his beliefs.

So why do we give out valentines in his honor? Over the centuries, several unsubstantiated, and wildly different, storylines have circulated. One says that he signed a note to the jailer’s daughter, “Love, your Valentine.”  Hence, our tradition got started.

Just over half of all adult Americans will celebrate Valentine’s Day. They are projected to spend $19 billion, or $143 per consumer. The staggering amount of money and level of commercialism is sickening, but that’s not what’s on my mind.

I’m thinking about the nearly half of the population who will not celebrate. According to the latest census, 43% of Americans are single. Some of those unmarried people have someone special in their life who will buy them roses or chocolates. But many of them don’t.

What about them?

At the risk of being seen as a crusader against all invented holidays, I have to tell you a couple of things about me. First, I am always for the underdog, the misfit, the one left out. Second, when I got married in my forties, I vowed to never forget what it felt like to be single and excluded.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t seem to be as traumatic as Mother’s Day—the other target of my rants. On Mother’s Day, I see and hear and feel the deep pain of women who aren’t moms. What I observe on Valentine’s Day is more like irritation.

Maybe that’s because  the hurting ones haven’t found their voice.

I’ll never forget one Valentine’s Day overseas. My team, all married couples and me, had a planned social time, which just happened to fall on February 14. Each person took a turn sharing how they fell in love. It’s as if the people–my teammates and friends–who organized it didn’t consider my feelings at all. That stung.

To ward against loneliness which can easily spiral into depression, some singles band together and make their own Anti-Valentine’s Day fun. These parties can have a dark edge, with blacked-out hearts and wilted roses. But the idea of drawing toward others when you feel sad or alone is healthy.

Christ-followers should be the first to notice people hurting, and reach out to them. Churches are often so family-oriented that people alone can be overlooked. Invite single friends out for coffee or to your home for a meal, not out of pity, but to get to know them and include them.

If you are married to someone you love who’s good to you, count yourself fortunate. Love is a wonderful thing. You did nothing to deserve it. It’s a gift of God. His grace to you.

Most people didn’t choose to be single. There’s not something wrong with them that they’re being punished for. They may be grieving a death. Or they just experienced a break-up. Or, as in my case, they’re waiting for the right person, not willing to settle.

Let’s look out for them this Valentine’s Day.  Let’s be like the real Valentino this year.

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