It was the only day I brought two paper bags to school.
One full. For lunch. A PB&J sandwich (grape jelly – is there anything else?) and Doritos (Nacho cheese. Cool Ranch hadn’t been invented.)
And one empty. For the back of my chair. With my name on it. A piece of tape holding it.
For Amy. The cutest girl in second grade.
And her valentine. Also with my name on it.
For a reason beyond the seven-year-old mind, Ms. Linden waited until an hour left in the day to give the signal. But it came. Finally.
The march began.
James, Kelly, Jennifer, Mark, Mike, Stacy, and more. And me.
A mass of kids congesting aisles, matching valentines with bags.
Walking and searching.
While watching and hoping.
Bags gently rustled. Smiles slyly crept. Hearts privately swooned.
At least mine did.
When she found my bag. And made a deposit. Her last one.
From the fourth row.
My curiosity, once piqued, now peaked.
As if sensing the dilemma, Ms. Linden rescued me.
We returned to our seats. Bags were untaped. And private contents became public piles.
On my desk, two number twos and a glorious collection of perforated hearts, cheesy puns, and sentiments quickly scanned.
Except for one.
Hers. Read carefully. Repeatedly. A diligent search for longed-for meaning. Requited affection in a single line? A depth in that dotted I?
One could hope.
At least I did.
We’re all grown up now.
And what we did as children we still do as adults, don’t we?
Our knowledge has graduated but our feelings are still elementary.
To be seen. To know love. To feel worth something.
Deep down. And to those around us.
And on February 14th, the paper bag’s still there, isn’t it?
At the end of the day if your bag’s full, what a blessing. Enjoy the attention, cherish the memories, and hold close the givers. It’s people who make life authentic and love real.
Smile big. Laugh loud. And enjoy.
If your bag’s torn, you haven’t failed.
A messy past, private agony, and tears hid well, don’t define your worth. Your being, not your being perfect, qualifies you as worth loving.
And though realities exist and the feelings that come with them, so does kindness and concern and love – the real kind – from people in your corner. You’re not alone. They’re there. We’re here.
There are few days where love and loneliness are so powerfully felt. And Rewind and Fast Forward so equally sought.
Let’s love well.
With confidence and compassion. With conviction. And care.
For those celebrating. And those rebuilding.
For the easy smiles. And the ones that conceal.
And for those watching and hoping, wanting to feel worth something. Deep down. All of us.
Love. With your name on it.
When the day ends, I pray you take it home.