Friday, February 1, 2013

The Great Valentine Exchange

My son's teacher sent home the note a few weeks in advance, giving parents plenty of time to help their darlings choose, address, and sign twenty-four Valentines for their other classmates.

Maybe it was the cute "I Luv U" heart graphic at the top of her note or the list of names on the back.  Whatever the case, Wyatt was thrilled with the thought of being able to give something to his peers.

It didn't matter that mommy had to leave in an hour to go teach ESL.  Such an important project immediately skyrocketed to the top of his list, beating out Scooby Doo reruns, the half-finished magnetic mosaic on the dining room table, and the joy (and naughtiness) found in the great outdoors.

This was an exercise in penmanship and phonetic pronunciation of names, all disguised in the garments of fun. And that clever disguise had worked...too well, making this also a now exercise.

I pulled apart the lenticular cards, slumped in the chair beside him, and watched him spread them face-up before him in lines of five.  Taking mommy's special blue pen, he carefully chose a name and checked it off before copying it.

The list of names was a mixture of the very familiar with faces and personalities and those too rarely mentioned for me to remember.  There was the little girl he'd love to marry (or at least call his "girlfriend") if this mother would let him, the boy who was always in trouble or doing something mean/naughty, the girls who scream louder than a tornado, the boys who threw rocks at him on the play ground.

I wondered which name belonged to the new kid but didn't have a chance to ask before Wyatt started into a monologue about each name as he copied it.

"I'll do her next.  She has a short name."
"He likes green, so he can have this one."
"He's kinda a friend, so I'll give him Lightening McQueen."

The more I listened, the more he shared details about his classmates...and the more I had to stifle the ball of laughter growing inside me.

"She's as sweet as fireflies."
"He's my favorite."
"He fusses at me all the time."

"She never talks to me."
"She's the one who always wants to be my girlfriend but I said no."
"He's always so shocked with _____ says a bad word.  He acts like (insert shocked face and spread arms)."

"She's cute."

When there were only three girl's names left, Wyatt panicked--which cars would girls like best?  All the purple girly ones were long gone.  I looked over the choices--a grouchy looking green car, an equally unpleasant looking orange car, a smiling blue stripe, and the traditional candy apple red of Lightening McQueen (the only name I knew in the whole set).

I suggested reds and blues.  Then, he looked at the names again and frowned.

"She's kinda bossy," he said, putting down the blue card and picking up the green one.

"Yeah," I giggled.  "Give her the grouchy green one."

I honestly expected him to balk at giving a card to the classmate he claimed had "punched" (read: poked) him in the stomach that day, but he didn't. 

It's a silly childhood rite of passage.  Yet, it was a positive way to reinforce what husband and I try to teach around here--that God calls us to show everyone mercy, grace, and love, even those who mistreat and persecute you.

It's not that they have done something to be worthy or deserving of our love or even that they'll appreciate or reciprocate it.  They may have nothing to offer us in return.

But when that happens and we love the unlovely, the unlovable?

Then, we know that we were loving as Jesus loved--not out of self interest but out of selflessness.  And that's a kind of love that just might bless the one who gives more than the one who receives.

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