I realize most Valentine’s Day posts happen before or on the actual day, but I find myself treasuring things more after the fact than ahead of time. Though I just celebrated my first Valentine’s Day as a married woman, I keep thinking of my favorite Valentine’s Day as a single person.
Years ago, I was living in community with some people from church. As Valentine’s Day edged closer, I kept hearing a refrain from my single friends: the longings for a significant other, the heartbreak and sometimes bitterness over past loves, and the vitriol over Valentine’s Day. “I hate Valentine’s Day,” was what I kept hearing louder and louder. “It’s the meanest holiday for singles.” I was probably around 25, and our church had a sizable demographic of singles.
Our church also had a growing crowd of young families and children, the oldest child in fifth or sixth grade. I also kept hearing how busy they were, how non-stop little children were, and how the parents craved a break.
Sometime before Valentine’s Day, I found myself at a bookstore staring at a display of Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year childrens books. The Chinese New Year books failed to jump out at me, but one Valentine’s Day book did because it actually addressed God. I always wondered why Valentine was canonized as a Saint. And this book addressed it and while it wasn’t the deepest of messages, Valentine’s sacrifice of love inspired me.
“Hey you guys, I have an idea.” I asked my single friends if they would be willing to throw a party with me. It would be on Valentine’s Day, and we’d have all the little kids over so their parents could have a date. It would be 2 hours total, we’d feed them pizza, read them the story of St. Valentine’s Day, and then put on a movie to kill the rest of the time. Afterwards, all the single people could go out for dessert.
I then asked a couple parents if they’d be open to this idea, what time would work best, if they’d be okay with pizza and a movie, and they said yes. And then we got busy.
My roommates agreed to host, since we’d hosted a lot of gatherings already. Someone arranged for the pizza, another friend picked the movie Shrek. I wrote up a letter for parents explaining the details, and attached little red envelopes for them to handout to their children. Each envelope had a Valentine with an invitation to come to our house for a party, hosted by the singles at church.
Word spread quickly, and some parents in the neighborhood asked if they could take part also. We mildly decorated the house, rearranged furniture and ordered pizza. We had an emergency contact list ready for parents to sign as the kids arrived. And once they arrived at 4:45, it was nonstop. Thirty-some odd toddlers and elementary-aged people wandered our living areas, voicing their pizza and drink preferences, asking for help to be taken to the bathroom. And then my very animated friend E read the story of St. Valentine, and then we put on Shrek. Those of us adults who wanted to interact with the kids did so, and those with less of that gifting hid out in the kitchen.
And to our great relief, at 6:45 parents began to return to pick up their children. As the last child left around 7:30, we looked at each other happy, though we were surprisingly exhausted, unaccustomed to that many kids non-stop. Too tired to go out, we sat around, ate the rest of the pizza, and picked at dessert, content to be blessed and to have blessed.