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Make your Valentine's list now of who needs to receive your words of love, appreciation

By Judy Knotts
Special to the American-Statesman

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how totally we miss each other.

Being in our tiny social bubble of one or two or five, we crave physical contact. A body-crushing hug from a child, an arm around the shoulder from a cousin, or a hand held by anyone makes us feel alive and beloved beyond measure. It’s really all we crave.

Of course, we miss eating in restaurants, traveling, socializing, and shopping in stores, but these all pale in comparison to the power of touch.

COVID-19 has made us cranky. Businesses shutting down, job losses, money worries, fear of contagion, illnesses and deaths, reins on our personal freedom, and loneliness have increased our likelihood for depression, often displayed more by anger, than tears.

Moreover, name calling and nastiness seem everywhere and accepted by many. We either tune out or join in the fray.

Let’s put the brakes on this runaway movement and find another way to express ourselves.

Judy Knotts is a parishioner of St. John Neumann Catholic Church and former head of St. Gabriel's Catholic School and St. Michael's Catholic Academy. Her newest book, "You Are My Brother," is a collection of past American-Statesman faith columns.

Why not Valentines? They are two-way mysterious systems connecting the sender with the receiver. They are not only love notes, they are also peace offerings and prayers uniting the sender with someone who has hurt us, someone who feels forgotten by us, or perhaps someone who believes they were betrayed by us.

Calls are good. Emails are OK, but a Valentine can be saved, and read often reminding us that we are loved. A man who lives on the streets once showed me a tattered Valentine he kept in his pocket for years. I apparently had given it to him and had forgotten, but he hadn’t.

What does it take? A card, a stamp, and a trip to the mailbox, maybe. The card doesn’t have to be costly. I shop at grocery and dollar stores where I can get an inexpensive valentine collection.

This year, I’m thinking beyond the traditional scope of Valentines I’m sending to my family and enlarging my love circle. I’m sending Valentines to friends who live in retirement homes or in memory units. Why not one to my dentist, my neighbor, my nephew whose restaurant closed?

And my wonderful teachers — I would love to be able to send one to Miss Williams who in fifth grade taught me to read two-part vocal scores, to Mother Russell who in high school introduced me to logic, and to Dr. Curcio who in graduate school stretched my ideas about leadership.

Perhaps, I could send a Valentine to some of my former colleagues who practiced collaboration, and to the social entrepreneurs, I know, who constantly worked to improve lives.

There must be someone or some others I’ve offended who need to hear an apology in a Valentine.

I want to send a Valentine to Dr. Anthony Fauci and to the teams of researchers who worked tirelessly to create a vaccine for COVID-19 in record time. I want to send a Valentine to teachers who in this pandemic had to figure out ways to teach virtually and in safe classrooms. I want to send a Valentine to parents who were cooped up for nearly a year with children keeping them safe and keeping peace.

Hurrah for St. Valentine or rather the three St. Valentines, who gave us the occasion simply to show our love, no strings attached. According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, at least three different St. Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of Feb. 14.

One is described as a priest in Rome, another as Bishop of Interamma; of the third St. Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions, nothing further is known.

Apparently, in the Middle Ages (noted in literature) the Valentine custom began as people observed birds mating mid-February.

So let’s send Valentines — love poems, peace offerings, prayers — and flood the little corners of our world.

I know there are folks who will view this as foolishness, and I agree if we only focus on the heart shaped cards and fail to understand what the outreach is about. It’s all about saying, "I see you. You matter."

The wise ones realize: solid relationships are the everyday extraordinary coupling mechanisms that make us resilient and the world robust. 

Judy Knotts is a parishioner of St. John Neumann Catholic Church, and former head of St. Gabriel’s Catholic School and St. Michael's Catholic Academy. Her newest book, “You Are My Brother,” is a collection of past American-Statesman faith columns.