“And if you share with your heart, you give with your heart. What you share with the world is what it keeps of you.”
This past week, I’ve had gratitude on my mind. It’s a theme that has continued following me since Valentine’s Day. The lyrics above are the last haunting words from the song Give a Little Love by Noah and the Whale. The advice deeply resonated with me in a week of candy hearts, fancy cards, and material gifts – when it’s easy to get caught up in the symbolism of Valentine’s Day instead of celebrating the love and generosity in our world.
J and I celebrated our first Valentine’s Day together as an official, hand-holding, mutual relationship couple (insert smitten, googly eyes here). Back in our college days (and the first time we dated, for those who don’t know our story), we were spring chickens you might say. We had been on a few coffee and dinner dates, but still shied away from jumping in headfirst to the cliché couple routine of Valentine’s Day. Today, I have a lot of gratitude that God allowed His plan to unfold for both of us, all in sweet time, making this first Valentine’s Day that much more special.
Growing up, February 14th was truly celebrated in my family. As children, my sisters and I made boxes for cards that we displayed at school. I always took serious care in selecting my cards to give classmates. I can remember waking up to special breakfasts of French toast, bacon, and fresh strawberries. Flowers would always decorate the table at home. Every year, my mom gave us small gifts and receiving them in college when I was homesick for my family made it such a treat. Every Valentine’s Day, I felt so loved. This national holiday wasn’t just for relationships full of love and passion. It was a day to celebrate all the relationships in your life – from the big to the small. Looking back, I’m so thankful my parents taught me the concept of gratitude during this time.
Cultivating relationships is difficult, especially as an adult. I made the decision to move away from Kansas nearly five months ago, and I miss my friends and my family every single day. I’m so appreciative of the channels of connection that exist in our modern world – from phone calls, snapchats, Face Time, and Skype. I know those I love are just a few minutes away. While learning how to do long-distance friendships, I have learned that gratitude is the heart of love. If love is a flower in bloom, gratitude is the soil that allows the roots to be nourished. Without appreciation and thankfulness, I would not be able to sustain the love that connects my friends and family.
As I sat in a restaurant Tuesday with J across from me, I was reminded why it is so important to show everyone you meet gratitude. We were at a local, downtown restaurant with the mountains in the backdrop. With delicious food and my favorite guy across from me, I was a happy camper all evening. In happenstance, we were seated very close to the front door and snugly between a few different couples. Together, one of our favorite things to do is to observe the room, catching snippets of conversation and discovering the stories of those around us. J and I couldn’t help but overhearing multiple fights between couples. We even listened as the couple next to us refused their food and were arguing with the waitstaff at the restaurant. As we left the building that evening (on our way to the best dessert a girl could ask for – Dairy Queen Blizzards), I linked arms with J and felt a deep sense of gratitude envelop me. My evening was so much more enjoyable because I chose to focus on everything and everyone I loved on Valentine’s Day.
Every single person you meet has a history, a good and a bad one. You might not know their story, but it does deserve to be told. Despite struggle, despite imperfections, and despite fear of the unknown, every single person you encounter is worthy of love. I’m so thankful that from an early age, I was taught that relationships matter. The respect and gratitude you give others, those who are your best friends and those you encounter in a single event, says so much about you.
“You are imperfect. You are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” – Brené Brown
My hope for the rest of your February is that you find time to give a little love to those around you. Give it in big ways. Give it in small ways. This year, I worked hard to hand-write personal notes to send to those I love. A little, old-fashioned snail mail was my way of reminding those around me that they mattered and I have a deep sense of gratitude each time I think of them in my life. Even in small encounters, at coffeeshops or restaurants, I have learned that you can make someone’s day be being appreciative. If you allow your daily mindset to focus on gratitude and the joys of a thankful heart, imagine all the people you can impact (and all the evenings you could really enjoy).