My Valentine to All from Here to Eternity

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila


This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me—
The simple News that Nature told—
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see—
For love of Her—Sweet—countrymen—
Judge tenderly—of Me

Emily Dickenson. This poem is in the public domain.


As a single person  thinking about Valentine’s Day, my thoughts on the world’s interpretation of this special day turn to Dickenson’s poem as applied to isolation many singles feel on a day celebrating romantic love (whether their isolation is of their own choice or making or due to the more common causes of same: the advertised “soul mate” hasn’t yet appeared, one is divorced or widowed).

At any rate, some singles feel “left out of the club” when ads tout the romance-only portion of this special day, or they feel out of an otherwise inclusive, loving community that, nevertheless, once a year sponsors a “couples only” event perhaps in a lovely restaurant with fine food and special activities for such an occasion.

(A few, of course, go the dark route and, instead of a box of chocolate and a Teddy bear, offer a bucket of cynicism and a lump of coal to the world at large. I offer them my condolences.)

So, this morning, thinking about several former couples I know, who have recently or in the past suffered the loss of one of them–through death, the trauma of an abusive marriage, and/or the rejection of one who was unfaithful, who perhaps once upon a time gave the other heart-felt cards and chocolates but no more–I’ve been pondering what I can offer this Valentine’s Day–not just to couples but to all.


Reading through accounts of the real St. Valentine, after whom this day is named, it appears there are many stories and legends. However, in all the narratives, two facts remain consistent: he put shoe-leather on encouraging persecuted or otherwise needy believers helping them in practical ways and by bringing them other gifts and notes of encouragement. And he was martyred for these activities, for it was against the law to aid Christians.

At its core, you might say, this day is historically about doing kind and in some cases life-saving but always encouraging things for needy people, and not just people in couples’ relationships.

And it’s about the willingness to sacrifice in doing so, if not one’s life, one’s time and or resources.

Or one’s soured attitude for one or more individuals due to past or present hurts and rejections that a greater Love enables us to surmount that we might enter, again, in the peace and joy meant for us even on this beleagured mortal coil.

So in this spirit, I have been pondering what, in this case, would be the best “Valentine’s Day letter to the world” I can offer, whether recognized or, like Dickenson’s poetry, not–at at least in her lifetime.  (She was a famous recluse, whose poetry did not become noteworthy until after her death, in part becuse she didn’t care so much about being published.)

After reading articles on suggestions of what one might contribute in general and more specifically what I can perhaps contribute, here’s a few things I came up with:

  • host a Valentine’s Day Get-Together for single women (men, you’re on your own, too, as it were)
  • distribute cards to widowed/single neighbors, especially elderly
  • offer to babysit for a single mom so she can do something for herself for a few hours
  • promote a Valentine’s for All event in one’s circle and family
  • share one of one’s own poems or sentiments that might encourage another
  • be extra kind to everyone today, whether in thought, word, or deed
  • be extra kind to oneself, too.

But my heart is really to participate in a Valentine’s Day sentiment by loosing the concept from the members-only couples’ events it has been reduced to in mocern times, to the eternal significance for all.


In the bigger context, over-arching anything I might give some time to on this special day celebrating love, I came to rest on the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift: a reminder of that eternal offering from the Poet of poets that transcends the world’s notion of such a day or celebration and reminds us of the genesis of all love that is sacrificial and encouraging:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)  

For this object of our affection, and we, His,  is no respector of persons: whoever so wills to do so can enter into His all-encompassing, time-and-place-surpassing love. (For information on why and how to enter into this “coupleship,” see below*.)

From my own perch on the world’s fragile limbs, I also offer this “valentine” from days past, embellished with an extra bit of love in this Year of Our Lord 2023:

“On Valentines and Kindness”

On Valentines and Kindness

The story a local resident told in his letter to the editor went something like this:

I went to the window of my office to stretch a bit and watch the goings-on in the street below. It was cold outside. A disheveled looking guy sitting on the curb, a homeless man I’d seen before, sat with his arms wrapped around himself to get some warmth, I suppose.

As I was watching, a well-dressed man with an attaché case stopped by. He sat down on the curb next to the homeless guy and talked for a few minutes. Before he got up and went on his way, he took off his gloves and gave them to the other.  

Neither man knew, of course, I witnessed this simple act of kindness. It kind of restored my faith in mankind, you know?

On this Valentine’s Day when, with a little help from Hallmark, the flower shops, and the candy stores we celebrate love, I am reminded of the kind of love that gilts the gold, ices the cake—restores the heart.

It’s not necessarily bright, shiny, brave, or beautiful as we sometimes imagine love to be nor is it necessarily embellished with a fine meal in a fancy restaurant filled with hearts and flowers and chocolates for the romantic among us.

It resembles more a few minutes’ chat in a lonesome place; the warmth of compassion, of a sudden, on a cold curb. The best of who we can be offered to someone else with or without a return.

Here are some other thoughts on this, I believe, most potent form of love:

“There is nothing so rewarding as to make people realize that they are worthwhile in this world.” (Bob Anderson)

“Nothing,” wrote Tolstoy, “can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.”

“Sometimes it’s easy to lose faith in people. And sometimes one act of kindness is all it takes to give you hope again.” (Randa Abdel-Fattah)

And this little gem:

“Life is mostly froth and bubble,

Two things stand like stone.

Kindness in another’s trouble,

Courage in your own.” (Adam Gordon)

But on a prominent wall space in my kitchen, I have displayed my favorite quote of all:

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” (Henry James)

Take heart. Give heart. Happy Valentine’s Day, all.


*ABCs of Salvation

This entry was posted in encouragement in hard times, most recent posts, Valentine's Day themed and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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