It’s no secret that the teen years are very formative for many young people. For me, the memories of being 14 years old are still very fresh in my mind, including one particular incident that occurred on a certain holiday halfway through February. For Valentine’s Day at my school, you could send candy and flowers to your fellow classmates throughout the day, something that you likely did as a kid, as well.
Without a doubt, anything and everything carries more emotional weight when we’re young. Highschool romances and break-ups, friendships, your relationship with your parents; it’s all heightened in those teen years. So, when I was 13 and had helped to sell candy grams in my school but failed to receive one myself, that was quite a strike to my self-esteem.
Then came fourth period on Valentine’s Day, February 1996. I remember that Valentine’s Day vividly. The heavy metal door that adorned most classrooms in the 90s was slung open by a group of ASB students, whose job was to hand out the gifts from classmates. Each student’s head suddenly popped up like prairie dogs and excitement was in the air. Nearly everyone in the class received one, and it looked as if I’d be skunked again another year in a row.
Then it happened. The student body president walked up to my desk and gave me a single carnation. I opened up the tiny card attached. It said simply, “Smile, you have a secret admirer!”…
Who Should I Give Valentine’s Day Gifts To?
It’s been said that ‘Love’ is a verb, not a noun. That love is an act of caring for someone and putting their joy above your own. By that definition, a simple act of kindness and gratitude is the demonstration of love as an action. To show someone you care for their heart is perhaps the most noble thing a single person can do.
By that measure, those who bring joy to our lives daily can be the perfect people to demonstrate such an act of love with. Of course, we already know to get Valentine’s Day gifts for our girlfriends, wives, boyfriends and husbands, but you can hand out more love to everyone in your life!
Your mail carrier, the cashier at the local supermarket or the person who delivers your food; these people can brighten your day by helping fill your joy quota. People whose job it is to help you, but rarely see much in the way of support in return, like our teachers and professors, security guards, public transportation drivers, waste management associates. So many people put a little extra effort into their jobs to make sure we never have added stress in our lives.
Simply showing these underappreciated friends that their work is seen, can make the difference between feeling like a cog in a wheel or feeling like a hero. I can tell you on that aforementioned Valentine’s Day, I walked around the halls of school as if I was Luke Skywalker returning home after destroying the Death Star. Being noticed gives validation.
What gifts do I give someone I’m not “in” love with?
One effective type of gift is useful items. They are simple observations made by the gifter, about what is needed to make life a little easier for the recipient. If the recipient of your gift drives for a living, things like phone holders for their dash shows you care about their safety and well-being. If they are on their feet a lot during the day, then comfy shoe insoles or perhaps an FTD at-home spa treatment can go a long way to give their muscles the massage they need.
If useful gifts feel strange to you, a gift of sentiment can be a wonderful alternative. For the people who take extra special care of your puppies and kitties, a gift bundle of delectable treats goes a long way. Weather appropriate apparel like scarves or hats shows your recipient warmth is more than just an emotion.
In the past, gift cards may have seemed a tad impersonal. In the economic situation we find ourselves in, however, they can be a great way to show you not only care about the recipient of the gift, but it’s nice to show support of the business your gift card is from, as well. Buy a gift card from a local restaurant for to-go food or a favorite local business of theirs. It’s easy to imagine the joy that will be derived from your recipient upon getting the gift card, and it’s nice knowing that a local business will make some extra revenue during tough times.
It may seem overly simple, but don’t rule out the classic “thank you” message. Writing can be an easy way to show you took the time to think of your recipient, even if it’s simply on a sticky note. Give a Valentine’s Day gift to those who make your life better, and show them how much you care.
Tell Them You Care This Valentine’s Day
Because many of us associate Valentine’s Day with passion and romantic love, we forget that most of the people we truly love are not ones we share romance with. Oftentimes, they are the people who, were they to completely disappear out of the blue, would change our lives. The spark they give, whether small or large, is something we love them for.
To show these special people in your life that you care, tell them! Phrases like, “My days are better when you are in them” or “ The best part of my day is getting to see you.” You can also compliment the things they do. “You are truly the best at [whatever they do that improves your life].”
When in doubt, just be genuine and observant. In the film Avatar, the aliens on planet Pandora don’t say the words I love you. Instead, they would say, “I see you.” Show the people in your life that they are not just going through your world unnoticed. We desire above all else to feel we belong. Valentine’s Day can be a great occasion to let others know they matter.
Back to that Single Carnation…
There aren’t many days that go by that I don’t think about that flower I received at 14. That entire day I walked around believing I had a secret crush. I told everybody I encountered about my gift. I even laid down guesses as to which girl in my class had sent it to me. Perhaps it was the head of the cheerleading squad or the soprano in our choir, I thought.
As school let out and we headed toward our bus, I got a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see Jeremy, the kid who sat behind me in homeroom.
“Did you like your flower?” He asked.
“Yes, who sent it?” I blurted out. “Was it Sarah? Lindsay? Who?!”
“I sent it.” He said, bashfully smiling. “You have always been so kind to everyone and I never see you get gifts. I wanted you to know people do care about you. A lot of people do.”
I’m 37 years old now, and to this day I have not received a more thoughtful gift on Valentine’s Day. I’ll never forget him or his beautiful heart. It didn’t take much, but that single flower changed the way I express love to this day.
Be the person who sees others, and you’ll never be alone.