The elementary school that my daughters attended had a lovely tradition for Valentine’s Day. This tradition required several weeks preparation, as every child in the school was encouraged to create handmade cards or to bring a Valentine for everyone in their class and to write a sentence describing one thing that they like about each recipient on the cards. The event started with the preparation of the Valentine’s Bags.
Each child (and all the teachers and staff) decorated a paper bag with hearts, etc. and their name. These bags were then affixed to the walls outside each classroom, where the children would “mail” all of their valentines, which would then be taken home at the end of the school day on/or near Valentine’s Day. Parents were invited to post valentines to their children, their friends, teachers and staff, as well.
Sometimes it was a bit of a chore for the children to make 20+ handmade cards complete with encouraging words for each of their classmates, but it was always so much fun for them to drop the cards in the bags and to bring home their own bagful of brightly coloured hearts with kind sentiments written on them from all of their classmates.
This tradition was adapted for parents who attended the Parents’ Advisory Council’s annual workshop, “School For Parents”— a six-week long exploration of parenting styles that encouraged and helped parents deal with the everyday trials and tribulations of raising children in today’s hectic world. At the session during the week of February 14th, every parent and facilitator, pinned a large red or pink construction paper heart to the back of their shirts. Throughout the night, people would wander around the room, stop and write an encouraging message on each heart, describing one thing they liked about that person. Some signed their thoughts, but most didn’t. The idea was to write on as many hearts as possible before the class ended.
This exercise was one of the most powerful and heartening practices that I have ever participated in. I could hardly wait to get home and read all the messages — some of the thoughts were surprising and unexpected (the characteristics that some saw in me, amazed me!), some absolutely delighted me, and some were just simple words of encouragement — all were heartfelt and empowering. It was positive, endearing and reaffirming to read the Valentine notes meant especially for me. I felt so loved. It felt good.
I had forgotten the joy that I felt doing this — how wonderful it was to receive these kinds of expressions and how great if felt to give them to others.
So excuse me, but I have to find some paper and a pen and start writing out some love notes…
Happy Valentine’s Day!