Singles can feel pretty left out on Valentine’s Day, even when they are single by choice. Teenagers who choose to be obedient to the prophets’ counsel avoid going steady until after a mission. Thus, they may feel like they are the only ones in their peer group without a reason to celebrate on February 14th. The gossip in the halls centers around who likes whom. It seems every girl in their high school is making a card for the object of her affection and every boy is scoping out Russell Stover chocolates.
The LDS Youth in one ward have created the perfect solution to all this flaunting of love and romance. They have decided to celebrate the love of their parents. Rather than pining over who will focus on them this February 14, or lamenting the fact that they won’t have a Valentine of their own for years to come, these youth have elected to focus on real love, the type of love they will have one day, the type of love they witness in an eternal marriage.
This Valentine’s Day these youth will serve the couples in their ward a four-course meal, with choice of entree, appetizer, salad and dessert. The young men, dressed in red cummerbunds and bow ties will wait on tables while young women serenade the diners at each table with violin music. The “restaurant” will be decorated like the Louvre with framed art lining the walls, and intermittent statues accenting the decor.
Following the meal the adults will pass through an “arc de triumph” into another room designed to look like the streets of Paris, with bistro tables tucked in the corners, bicycles lining the sidewalks, and lanterns hanging from the walls. Here the adults will dance the night away, their children safely entertained in the Primary room.
These youth have spent weeks planning the annual event, and it has given the Valentine’s Day holiday an entirely new meaning. “It’s kind of stupid to worry about something you can’t have,” says one young woman. “We can’t have a boyfriend right now anyway, so why even think about it?”
The ability of these young people to stop worrying about themselves and delve into service will be an enormous asset throughout their lives. As missionaries who get homesick and perhaps even physically sick, they will, like Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, know the solution is to “forget themselves and get to work.”
Youth need not sponsor an elaborate ward Valentine’s dinner and dance in order to forget themselves on Valentine’s Day. Simply offering to babysit so their parents can go on a date takes the focus off their own desire for romance and places it on their parents’ legitimate romance. Making cards or sweets for their parents is another way to honor those whose right it is to celebrate their love.
Back in elementary school valentines were intended for everybody in the class. Teachers made a particular effort to insure that every child received a valentine from every other child. As children, exchanging valentines was a sign of friendship, and romance never entered our minds. A purple brontosaurus might exclaim, “You are DINO-mite!” or a jet plane declare, “You make me SOAR?” The most treasured valentines were not the ones that came from a particular person, but the ones that had a lollipop attached to them.
A 50-year-old man recalls the most memorable Valentine’s Day ever was the one where he had to stay home from school because he was sick. He was in kindergarten and was sorely disappointed that after all his effort to write the names of everybody in the classroom on the outside of their valentine he wouldn’t even get to place them in the proper box. And he pictured the shoebox he had carefully covered with stickers and hearts sitting empty and forgotten on the shelf.
Before the sun began to set on that forlorn Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Breen rang the doorbell of his home. In her arms she held his Valentine’s box, cards and candy bursting through the slit in the lid. This middle-aged man still remembers the love he felt that Valentine’s Day. He felt loved by his teacher.
At some point between elementary school and middle school the focus on friendship suddenly becomes a focus on romance. Perhaps it’s a young person’s desire to grow up and be like the big kids that makes him think he needs to focus on one single valentine, rather than befriending the entire class. But eventually the change takes place. It wasn’t until sixth grade that it even occurred to me to anticipate a valentine of my very own.
That year I received a giant Hallmark card, and real chocolates, no pictures of dinosaurs, or airplanes, no sticky lollipops, just shiny red background with gold lettering accompanying a Russell Stover’s box. The card was signed, “Love, Wilt Chamberlain.” I had no idea who Wilt Chamberlain was. Eventually a boy in my class revealed that he had sent me the card and the chocolates. Then who is Wilt Chamberlain?” I asked. It turned out that Wilt Chamberlain was his idol, and not only was he dreaming about romance that Valentine’s Day, he was dreaming about becoming a famous basketball star.
Years later I bumped into the Wilt Chamberlain wanna-be in college. He was mortified that at 12 years of age he would have been living in such a fantasy world and apologized profusely for the way he signed the card. We can all laugh easily at the imagination of a 12-year-old, who is as idealistic about love as he is about basketball. It’s clear he’s living in a fantasy world.
However, a 16 or 17-year-old who dreams about romance with the student who sits across the room in biology is not so different. The dreams of a 12-year-old may actually be more innocuous than those of a 16-year-old because he knows his desire to be a famous basketball star will occur “someday.” A sixteen year old crush will remain innocuous only if they recognize their normal, healthy desire for true love will occur, not this Valentine’s Day, but will indeed occur, “someday.”
The youth who focus on “someday” have faith that blessings will come when they are obedient to the prophets. They will recognize the fleeting love affairs their peers endure during high school are trivial when compared to a real relationship, one that will actually endure through eternity.
JeaNette Goates Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of UnSteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance available at amazon.
com. Please visit JeaNette’s website, www.smithfamilytherapy.org