Happy Valentine’s/You Don’t Have the Plague Day

Happy Valentine’s/You Don’t Have The Plague Day! It’s the traditional greeting, right.

There are concepts permanently etched into my memory. Most of the are from my childhood. Some were useful like my first phone number. Some were and are wonderful like the smell of my grandmother’s gingerbread just out of the oven. Some, actually most, are useless bits of nonsense. I don’t have enough room in there and wonder why my brain clings to this junk as if it will have value some day.

When I was a young catholic girl I learned about saints and one February at CCD I asked for more detail about St. Valentine. For the uninitiated, CCD stands for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, it is essentially religious education. It took place on Saturday mornings and I had several alternate names for it such as crushing coyote dreams and cartoon cheating day. Although I don’t really remember watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, I remember thinking I was cheated out of it and that I would rather watch the roadrunner meep-meep his way into a painted tunnel than go to church school. But off I went, with a mouthful of questions. It was a short-lived relationship.

So back to Bishop Valentine. I was told that he was the patron saint of the betrothed and protector against the plague. This was fascinating to me because I didn’t know what either of those things were. Ah the joy of learning two new things, and the danger of forever associating them together. My instinctive first thought about valentine’s day each year: engaged couples trying not to get the plague. Actually that seems about right.

This year that mixed sentiment seems more appropriate than ever. This year, so many young people face a valentine’s day with long term grief and trauma, shock and anger. How have their tender hearts survived the year? I remain hopeful for them. Those young determined faces that met our eyes through their fear and anguish, the clear, steady voices that spoke their truth, surely they would be strong enough and determined enough to thrive. Yes, young folks are resilient. I remain hopeful that they still seek love, friendship, and trust. I remain selfishly hopefully that they still seek change and have some fight in their bones.

What about the rest of us? How can those of us with older, wiser hearts face them? It seems like we’ve done nothing. There are no sweeping new laws, no statistical evidence of change, there aren’t even new conversations. Don’t worry, dear ones. We have changed. I promise you we have changed. You have rekindled hope and strengthened resolve in so many of us. Thank you for that. But now what? I wish I knew. Effecting even the smallest change has been harder than I imagined. And so again I promise you, we are not done yet.

Happy Valentine’s Day. No, not the one of glittery paper hearts and dusty candies with glib words on them. The real one. The one that knows we are betrothed, old and young, engaged in each other’s well being, bound to each other in community, and trying to save each other from this plague.

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