Red-haired Tim was a sweet boy in 9th grade who went to youth group with me and wanted to hold my hand while rollerskating. I could barely handle all of the attention having a boyfriend–even such an easy-going one–caused. After only a few official outings together, I decided that I just wanted to be friends, but I could think of no way to discuss this with him directly (I was, after all, only 13.)
I didn’t feel that there was anyone I could go to for this particular type of advice. So I decided that the only way I could navigate this transition was to stop speaking to kindhearted, unsuspecting Tim. I wasn’t trying to be mean; I honestly had absolutely no idea what to do. In spite of my chilly demeanor, Tim was a good friend all the way through to graduation. I recently apologized to him through Facebook and he said, “No worries kiddo. Water under the bridge.”
Guess I didn’t start out a communications genius…
Anyway. After Tim, I had lots of guy friends through high school, lots of flirtations and crushes, but didn’t really date until college. After all, my father was a rather terrifying prospect for any would-be suitor: 6 ft+ tall, a street preacher with commanding voice, imposing presence, and a strong Oklahoman accent. Canadian boys, beware! Jeremy had a lot of guts, don’t you think?
So every year, I approached Valentine’s Day at school with a combination of excitement (what if I had a secret admirer after all?) and terror (what if I didn’t get a single valentine?)
Our school offered something special on Valentine’s Day: We could buy a carnation for anyone in the school and have it delivered to his or her classroom, with or without a note. It was a fundraiser for student council and it was actually very fun. As we got older and became more comfortable in our skins, my classmates and I gave out lots of flowers for unromantic reasons–to friends both male and female–and this lessened the blow of Valentine’s Day for non-coupled students. I used to especially enjoy sending them to people I knew were unlikely to get one otherwise.
Some girls received lots of flowers as classroom deliveries. But the most popular (and presumably the most lovable) girls would receive even greater recognition: bouquets with their names on them delivered to the school’s office by a florist. These very special girls’ names would be announced over the PA system and they would do a very public walk to the office (garnering envious looks from every other girl along the way.)
As time passed, I gave up on ever getting more than a flower or two from a friend on Valentine’s Day. And it was ok.
But one Valentine’s Day (I think I may have been 15), I was surprised to hear my name announced over the intercom. I headed to the office (fully expecting that I was being called there because of some administrative or academic issue.) When I arrived, I was shocked to see a gorgeous big bouquet of flowers with my name on it.
There was no signature on the card, so I had no idea who the flowers were from. That bouquet made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the school. I felt like those flowers demonstrated to everyone that I too was special, loved, and cherished.
When I got home that night, I found out that my secret admirer was my father.
And I wasn’t at all disappointed when I found out that the flowers were from him. I was astounded by his thoughtfulness. And I loved the dramatic way in which he had responded to my unspoken desire. Not only did he send me flowers, but he didn’t sign the card. So that my classmates would always wonder.
My father has no idea how to change a diaper and he talks to infants as if they are art critics. But his parenting skills come into their own in the teenage years. In my case, he had an unwavering belief that someone wonderful was going to show up for me. And he repeated this truth to me, over and over, over and over, until I actually began to believe it. In spite of how unlovable I thought I was, most days.
So this is what I want to say to you, my friends.
Even if you had no one like my dad to tell you so, even if you have never heard your name called out over the intercom, even if you have never been sent flowers, it is not because you are not worthy.
The truth is this:
You are unique, cherished and deeply lovable.
I know this to be true with all of my heart, and I will keep saying it until you believe it.
Happy Valentine’s Day.