Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Valentine (05/16/05)
TITLE: A Special Card
By RON BRADY LARSON
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Children begin to learn about the Valentine Day holiday early in life. Television marketing, store displays, and expectant talk from older family members teach young people what to look forward to. Love. The four letter word everyone longs to feel and be consumed by. Love. The one invaluable possession in life that can not be bought or sold. Love. Everyone has a right to it, and anyone is capable of receiving love and giving love. Well… almost everyone.
In elementary school, it seemed that every child received a sack full of valentines on that special day. A week or so before, the teacher would send home a list of all the children’s names in my class. My mother would buy the standard package of mini-valentine cards, and I would try to choose the appropriate one for each classmate. A few days before, we would decorate and personalize our own valentine receptacles then tape them to the front of our desks. The official time for the celebration was something to look forward to since we were able to goof off for at least the last 45 minutes of the day! We snacked on home made cupcakes and the little candy hearts that the more affluent children were able to provide. As I dumped out my sack and explored all the loving messages, I took each one personally. It felt good to receive such a strong gesture of friendship from the popular boy who had teased me relentlessly the day before, or the pretty little girl in the front who normally had nothing to do with me. For me, a unique and overweight child, Valentine Day was a day to feel accepted and loved. It was a day that provided hope for inclusion. I had a hard time understanding how the love and camaraderie I felt on that day so quickly dissipated on the next.
As I grew older, I began to notice that other kids received personal notes. Cards got bigger and more extravagant. I still received the same small cards, and with each year that passed I received fewer. But I still hoped for that special card. Somewhat of a poet even at the age of 10, I often wrote Valentine poems for one or two select class members. I remember once getting a nice valentine card from one girl a week later! She apologized for her tardiness. “Oh yeah, my mom thought the poem was sweet.” All was quickly forgiven and I fell in love. For a minute….
In Junior High we no longer celebrated the holiday as a class; rather, kids just brought valentines for their friends. Instead of being a day of joy and hope for me, I began to dread the day that I would be forced to enviously observe everyone in my entire class share love and friendship by exchanging gifts, cards and sentiments with each other. At our age, it had become a day for others to initiate a date, or for young couples to share their puppy love in a deeper sense. Though I wasn’t the only one who felt ignored, it sure felt like it! I suppose that’s when I learned that there was a group who would accept me. We’d hang out behind the gym, get high and express our mutual disgust with the day. We all agreed, love didn’t come in a card.
I didn’t have a childhood sweetheart, and I’ve only had a few meaningful adult relationships. I didn’t truly grasp what love meant until I had my first child. As I fell more deeply in love with him and my wife, I also fell more deeply in love with Christ.
It is only through the love that Jesus has always had for me, that the pain and rejection of my younger years did not cripple my heart permanently. If I could, and when they needed it most, I would give a special valentine card for every lonely person in the world.
“God loves you no matter what, and so do I.”
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