By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
Flowers, candy and cards mark Valentine’s Day, and while crassly commercial and criticized by some, isn’t a day of kindness and love (however superficial) better than more politics, especially in this day of seemingly never ending partisan rancor?
Just in case you’re curious, Valentine’s Day as we know it today didn’t spread to the U.S. until the early 1700’s.
“In 1847, Esther A. Howland began the first mass-production run of valentine cards. These weren’t the flat pieces of paper we know today—they were elaborate works of art, festooned with ribbons, pictures, and lace.
“In the latter half of the 20th century, the exchange of simple cards and notes was expanded to include other familiar gifts, such as chocolate, roses, and jewelry, effectively commercializing the holiday. Today, Valentine’s Day remains incredibly popular, with sales on Valentine’s Day topping 19 billion dollars in 2016 alone, resulting in a holiday that some lament has become more about spending than loving.”
Holidays can be very difficult for the homeless, as they often bring back unpleasant memories. Because of that, we try to start implanting good ones, and make holidays a very special time at Joy Junction.
With that in mind, we asked a few of our shelter guests what could make Valentine’s Day at Joy Junction special for them, given their circumstances.
One guy said he would just like to spend time with his wife. He said she is his heart, and he would like to give her a dozen roses “and a ring she deserves.”
He added, “The only one I love more than her is God. I want to study the Bible on that day, and then take her to eat (Burger King), then sit back and just watch movies with her all day without having to worry.”
A woman said she would enjoy walking alone with her husband along the Rio Grande.
“Then after … we would sit down at the edge of the water and have a nice picnic, and just spend the day together enjoying each other’s company.”
One woman said that a special Valentine’s Day for her would be to give the children candy “and wait for their smile.”
However, she added, Valentine’s Day should be celebrated daily not annually.
“We should show our love and appreciation for those in our lives every day, because we are not promised the next minute, hour or day. We as humans … want to feel loved, and that we matter to our friends and family.”
Another woman said that she hasn’t seen her family for more than a year, and that a great Valentine’s Day would be reconnecting with them.
Someone else said that she and her husband want to spend Valentine’s Day together, along with others and God.
“For us, God is golden and what we have is because of Him. Valentine’s Day comes from the heart, and God gave us the heart to be able to love and help each other and to me that’s what ‘Heart Day’ is all about.”
Another person said that as Valentine’s Day is a day of love and she is not currently in a relationship, “Valentine’s and I are not applicable.”
However, she hastened to add, “Chocolate is awesome for people like me, though I would like to see a DJ and lights like Christmas – and everyone can dance and eat chocolate.”
We also asked a few of our Facebook friends what they thought would make a good Valentine’s Day for our guests.
Alice said that one year she took chocolates and put a Scripture in them, like ‘who you are in Christ’ type scriptures, and gave them out. Everyone loved them and remembered them for years.’”
Pamela suggested a hot meal shower, clean socks, new blanket and pillow, and a goody bag.
Andrea proposed decorations about love from the Biblical book of 1 Corinthians 13 , as well as a good dinner and “talk about their ideas of love.”
Another Andrea suggested an art class making cards for different guests. Necessary ingredients she said would be crayons, pens, markers, glue glitter, “and a tarp under the tables to catch all the flying glitter.”
Alvin’s suggestion was, “Don’t do that day.”
Now whether you believe in Valentine’s Day or not, its celebration is still going to happen and our guests are still aware of its existence. Would you please say a prayer for all of them as while walking recovery road they navigate their way through the sometimes perilous minefield of this and other holidays.