Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and visions of chocolates, satin hearts, Frederick’s of Hollywood outfits and special trips or dinners are filling the pages of the internet, magazines, and newspapers. The expression, “The heart wants what the heart wants” comes to mind but I wonder if it does. What does the heart want and is it love, sex or charity? Then, of course, there’s the matter of the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,” but that will not be discussed here.
Not everyone has thoughts of love and romantic fantasy in their minds when this special day comes up. One zoo has offered to name a cockroach with some special person’s moniker and then feed the “special person’s” physical representation to a meerkat. I’m sure the cute little animals love bugs. Others may wish to put pins into an effigy of some former flame, but what does any of it provide for us?
Consider this scenario: A huge, muscular, shabbily dressed man, who obviously does manual labor, searched in his jacket and pants’ pockets for some money. It took some time, but the man behind the food counter waited patiently for the order and the production of money to pay for the pepperoni slice of pizza that was being ordered. He wouldn’t move until the bills, crumpled, straightened out and held carefully, appeared from some ragged pocket.
Anyone looking carefully would see the man was buying his lunch; one slice of pizza, no drink. He would be eating at the window counter and returning to his hard, dirty labor just down the block when he finished. No words were spoken. He produced the $4.50 for the slice, the counterman accepted it and the man turned to put hot pepper on the slice. Still no words.
Why no drink with a slice that would, with its salt and spicy pepperoni, cause thirst? He couldn’t afford it. The four single dollar bills didn’t come from a wallet; they were stuffed into his work pants’ pocket. Had his wife given him the money and was it all he could afford for lunch? No one will ever know.
A woman, waiting at the counter for her order, did notice without letting anyone see she had noticed. As he approached the small tablet where the hot pepper flakes were kept, she approached, gently put her hand on his arm and asked, “Would you like a soda?”
“Would you like a soda?” she asked again in a voice only the two of them could hear.
“No, thank you, kindly. I do appreciate it, though.” The look was thoughtful, grateful, not providing anything but a look of appreciation. And it was over.
She returned to pick up her order and each went on with their lives, but both of them knew there was a display of heart that no one but the two of them will ever know about.
Heart, a word in the English language that can be used to mean many things and used in many ways. Anyone familiar with the Bachrach/David song, “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” hears the lament of love and loss, but also of love and cruelty. We say that a person is heartless and couldn’t have a heart if they were so cruel. The heart, we say, is the site of love.
But there are also hearts made of stone (a 1955 hit song) which tells us that not every heart is caring. And there’s an expression we frequently use that something “comes from the heart” meaning only good intentions toward someone else. Yes, the heart is at the center of it all.
Rather than thinking about ourselves this year and of what gifts we may buy, why not think of those who may never know us but will benefit from what we give from our hearts; charity.
Too many children and families are doing without things we consider absolutely necessary for daily life; toothpaste, body wash, detergent, bandages, pajamas, socks, books — I could go on but you, the reader, won’t need me to continue with this litany of “needs.”
This year, have a heart of a different kind than last year and give the gift that truly carries the deepest sentiments from the heart with it. Give the heartfelt gift of charity to those in need.