When I was in elementary school I loved to get conversation hearts on Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t so much about the flavor as the cute words printed on the candies. They were full of fun sayings and silly greetings. I never gave them to anyone, but they brought a smile to my face reminding me that it was a day of friendship and love. We exchanged cards with the kids in class that said the same things printed on the candies. Expressions such as “be mine”, “you’re cute”, “xoxo”, “call me”, etc. made kids smile and feel connected. We took the words for what they were, Valentine’s Day cards meant to express friendship and spread kindness and positive feelings.
As Valentine’s Day approaches once again this year and I purchased those conversation hearts for my own kids, I began to think about what the conversation hearts might say in today’s climate if they portrayed the real feelings of people who interact on an online platform with frankness and self-appointed authority to post without filter, without care. Would the kids feel the same warm fuzzies they do when they open that box of Valentines? Are we modeling for the kids what it really means to be kind?
We hear stories of bullying, we get enraged by acts of racism, we hurt for the vulnerable who can’t defend themselves and are taken advantage of, BUT we subject each other to scrutiny and threats of unfriending and ending relationships. As society shifts in this unending spiral, the Valentine conversation hearts we pass around might start to say “Be Kind to ME”, “Listen to ME”, “Hear ME”, “Agree with ME”, “Love ME” and “Respect ME”.
In our effort to assert ourselves, to make our opinions known we are alienating those around us. If we traded Valentines with sayings that matched the words we post on social media, the box would get thrown away and the message would never be heard. We are all vulnerable, we all deserve to feel loved and respected for our ideas. We are uniquely human and each of us deserves the conversation hearts from our childhood.
It is time to change! It is time to step off the platform and love people where they are. We won’t change hearts by putting those down who think differently, vote differently, believe differently. We must love our neighbors, not just the ones that are like us in thoughts and opinions. People will never change, never hear the other side if the words written on the conversation hearts are all about ME and what I think.
Let’s take our own advice and do what the conversation hearts of our childhood told us and just “Be Kind.”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”