OPINION: Do valentines express true love?

A monthly column by retired Vidette reporter Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin

Off My Rocker

By Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin

In a memory of exchanging valentines in first grade at Kennydale Elementary School in Renton, I can still see the pained little face of one my classmates.

I don’t recall the boy’s name, though I do remember well the name of another lad in the same class from whom I received my first kiss. I guess that shows my 6-year-old lack of sensitivity — and sense of what really matters in life. I hope I’ve become more compassionate in the 65 years since then.

I can still visualize the somber child standing at my desk apologizing because he thought he’d received a valentine someone had meant for me. And I was the direct cause of his angst: After my mother gave me the package of valentines, I didn’t write my classmates’ names on any of them. I simply printed my own name on the back of each card.

Delivering them to my fellow students’ desks the next day, it never occurred to me there might be some confusion. I was wrong, and that sad little face still resides in my memory bank.

When I explained it was really the valentine I’d given him, he quickly turned and headed back to his own desk. I hope I explained it to him kindly, though partly because of his speedy exit, I wonder if that might not have been the case.

It was my first time exchanging valentines. I was 5 when I entered first grade as the school didn’t offer kindergarten. And I don’t recall receiving any instructions about the valentine-giving process.

Life lesson learned

It somehow seems significant that I can still recall that boy’s distress, while the only thing I recollect about my first kiss is the “kisser’s” name and that it happened. I don’t recall the actual event at all.

I may be a slow learner, but I know now which was most important. And I hope I never forget what the boy, whose name I can’t recall, taught me, even if he might himself have later on disregarded it as a trivial matter.

In first grade, a boy named Bobby kissed me. Another boy came to me to correct what he’d perceived as a mistake on a day when love was especially celebrated.

What is love?

So which was more representative of love? And what, really, is love?

It’s “an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired,” American poet Robert Frost said in a 1957 review of a biography on him, “A Swinger of Birches, a Portrait of Robert Frost,” by Sidney Cox.

James Thurber, 20th-century American author and humorist, claimed, “Love is what you’ve been through with somebody.”

Spanish painter, Pablo Picasso, characterized love as “the greatest refreshment in life.”

I hope it’s far more than those snippets of some people’s thoughts about love.

Martin Luther King Jr., leader of America’s Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s, said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

And 19th-century British writer Charles Dickens said, “A loving heart is the truest wisdom.”

The very best description of love, in my opinion, is in First Corinthians, Chapter 13, in the Bible’s New Testament:

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” (verses 4-8a).

It’s obvious that walking in love is not an easy path. In fact, it’s likely impossible for frail humans without the help of God, whom, the Bible says, “is love.”

But with him, all things are possible, and even if we never become perfect in loving others, our pursuit of doing so is far better than just giving up and serving our own selfish desires. And there’s more in that book that can help us in becoming more loving.

And just for fun, remember what “Peanuts” cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz, said: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Happy Valentine’s Day.