Lessons in Love


What is love?

My first answer to this question came to me in the fourth grade: David Barham. In the school play, I was Maid Marian and he was Robin Hood – but at recess, it was like we were strangers. Oh, how I pined for him. Charlie Brown had The Little Red-haired Girl and I had David Barham. Lesson One: Love hurts.

Fortunately, that same school year, my teacher unwittingly helped my cause. Ms. Calendar made a big fuss over Valentine’s Day. We made our own mailboxes out of random classroom art supplies and she had one simple rule: If you brought in a Valentine card for one classmate, you had to bring one for everyone. Guess who sent me a valentine? David may not have sent the Scooby Doo “Ri ruv ru” card to me in the same spirit I had sent the Big Bird “You’re my favorite” card to him, but that hardly mattered at the time. I had something to treasure forever, signed “From: David Barham.”

When I was nine years old, Mr. Webster’s definition of love – “to have a deep affection for” – seemed to suffice. The idea that love was the sick feeling I had inside when David busted me staring at him across the room stuck with me through my teens and even my twenties.

I did not realize it all those years ago, but Ms. Calendar was attempting to teach us the most important love lesson of all: Love is not about hurting, it is about healing. She wanted every child to leave class on Valentine’s Day feeling that someone thought enough of them to sign the back of a card and slide it into their handmade mailbox. She was trying to help us see that love is really for everybody, because everybody needs it. If it is that vital to our survival, how can pain be part of the equation?

When I got a little older, I thought my crush on Todd Combs was love. He took me on my very first date – the homecoming dance. He. Was. So. Cute. OMG! That is, until he left me at the dance for an older girl. My heart was broken, and I might have been convinced that night that love is some sort of torture we must endure to make it into the next life; but something amazing happened that gave me pause.  Another boy named Todd, an extremely dreamy and popular upperclassman, saw what happened, walked across the gym and asked me to dance. He was not hitting on me. He was being kind to me. My heart felt full and I smiled uncontrollably. In my darkest moment, there it was – an act of kindness.

You don’t need a homemade mailbox full of cartoon character-covered cards to see that love is simply kindness …
and it’s for everyone.

Love feels good, even better than that moment when I take my first bite of a hot, Donna’s glazed donut. I have a deep affection for donuts, but I would never risk my life to save one – much less send it a Valentine. A donut would not inspire me to wander across a gym floor to comfort an awkward underclassman; but that basic sense of kindness that fills my heart out of nowhere, would.

Love is more than a feeling – ask the rock band Boston, they wrote a song about it. In fact, there are thousands of songs about love. Love supposedly makes the world go ‘round – not just on Valentine’s Day, but every second of every day.  So, even if you are single, this hearts & flowers holiday we celebrate every February 14th is for you. You don’t need a homemade mailbox full of cartoon character-covered cards to see that love is simply kindness … and it’s for everyone.


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