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From the Heart: A Great Valentine's Story
by Kay Kopit

Valentine’s Day has always been special to me. I can remember as far back as elementary school thinking about my classmates and carefully deciding which rhyme was best suited for each friend. The verse was important; I didn’t dare use the word “love” for a boy. My daughter, now 9 years old, is just as discerning when picking her choices from the collective bag of 32 purchased at the drug store. She and I have taken the day seriously. For several years we made our own cards for as many as 50 friends and family. We used watercolors, acrylics, doilies, old-fashioned stickers, glitter and glue. We would top off each design with an appropriate poem. This project would begin early in January, as each layer needed time to dry. What fun we have had with the symbolism of February 14th, a great time to honor our loved ones with sentiment from the heart.

My husband Bryan and I had only been together a few months when St. Valentine’s Day approached in 1986. I was still healing from years of sickness as a codependent woman. This was the first time that I was able to give something romantic to a man without feeling needy and trying to control the gift exchange. I didn’t have much money at the time but that didn’t stop me from creating a valued gift. I decided to present him with a basket containing items to stir his five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. I found an inexpensive woven container at Cost Plus and lined it with pink and red tissue paper: For sight, I created a collage filled with a variety of colored hearts; A tape, “Love Songs Are Back Again” by Band of Gold for sound (this wasn’t his taste in music but it is the thought that counts), Men’s cologne for smell (I found out later he didn’t wear cologne), For taste, home-made brownies that I learned right away were his favorite, and Soap on a Rope for touch. To this day, I feel “Soap on a Rope” is an odd phenomena. It isn’t comfortable to use but it looks practical. I still have one hanging in my shower. These five items completed my presentation.

What I didn’t know was that Bryan had a surprise of his own. A new confectionary had recently opened on 16th Street in our San Francisco neighborhood. An industrious couple that made the most delicious chocolate leased this small space. They displayed gorgeous velvet heart boxes filled with their trademark truffles. I would walk by there on my way to the trolley and admiringly dream of receiving a beautiful burgundy box. Of course I didn’t dare mention this to Bryan because our relationship was new. He too passed this store and purchased a box for me, presenting his gift accompanied with a bouquet of flowers. I was deeply touched because I had never before received a heart shaped box of chocolate from a beau. This year is the 20th anniversary of Joseph Schmidt the owner of the confectionary. They are now known all over the world. I have received many heart boxes purchased from their outlet in San Francisco but none quite as precious as that first one.

I am sentimental. Bryan also had another gift, one that blew me away. From his pocket he pulled out what looked like a heap of metal wire. I didn’t know what to say because I wasn’t sure what it was. As I looked more closely and unraveled the cluster, I saw that he had fashioned a hanging heart wire sculpture. This piece of original art has rusted over time but it continues 19 years later to hang in our kitchen as a reminder of the great guy I married. He has always told me he wasn’t creative. I beg to differ with him. I was filled with as much joy from that moving design as the luscious burgundy velvet box stuffed with Joseph Schmidt truffles.

Gifts from the Heart

Are you stumped when it comes to giving gifts? I want to share some creative ideas to arouse your imagination. When you acknowledge another person with a thoughtful gesture, you will be fulfilled as well. It feels good to see someone smile. Don’t be shy, try one of these today.

  1. Purchase disposable bread pans with lids (they often come 3 to a package.) Bake your favorite bread mix and then wrap it with a beautiful bow. If you can’t tie a bow, no worries, they are sold ready-made in bags.
  2. Take pictures of your family and friends doing ordinary, everyday activities, outside and around the house. Have duplicates made of the pictures (often the second set is free.) Purchase small inexpensive albums, found at camera shops and large drugstores, with slots for 12-24 pictures. Give these to people you love. Parents and grandparents treasure these tiny albums.
  3. If you have a digital camera, take the time to e-mail friends and family on your mailing list with current pictures. Keep the camera with you to catch unexpected events.
  4. On index cards or colored construction paper make a series of coupons wrapped together with a ribbon or stapled into a small booklet. Be imaginative with these coupons. For adults: a home-cooked meal, an evening at the theater, a night out dancing, babysitting for the kids at no charge, a weekend getaway, a day at the beach, and on and on. Think about this one. What would the person really want and need, that you are able to give? I have done this so many times. It is really fun! You can do the same for children: A day at an amusement park, swimming at the beach, a professional baseball game or other sports, books or videos of their choice. Just be sure with the children’s coupons you are prepared to do what you offer. Be specific as to how often they can be used or give them one at time.
  5. Support your friends and loved ones by calling them on the phone or stopping by their house to listen from your heart. Ask questions about how they are feeling. Often when our elderly relatives begin to repeat themselves we tune out. Make an effort to really listen and be there for them.
  6. Always send a thank you card when someone gives you a gift. Paint a picture with words. Describe how special the gift is and how you plan to use it.
  7. Write a letter to a friend who has lost a loved one. After a few weeks, when the loneliness really sets in, call them on the phone and let them talk about their loss.
  8. If you are one of those rare people who find cleaning and organizing therapeutic, offer your service in a card or coupon. A couple did this for me once. It was amazing. They did a spring cleaning in my apartment as a birthday gift. Wow!
  9. Take a friend or loved one to a concert or a sports event, even if it isn’t your taste. Make sure they are available that night and then surprise them with tickets. You can really make this special by also taking them out to dinner.
  10. If you are a couple, include a single person with you for a night out. I have talked with many divorced and widowed people who feel lost and alone. They appreciate being included for an evening of fun.
  11. Offer to drive an elderly person without transportation to do his or her daily chores. Sometimes people are debilitated and need help with their shopping. If they are incapacitated you could do their errands for them.
  12. Bake a variety of cookies and place them in a decorative tin or basket. Use cellophane to wrap the package and then tie it with a beautiful ribbon and hanging gift card. Sign your note with a gel pen and remember to draw a heart whenever you sign your name.

Love, affection, tenderness, empathy, understanding, and friendship all radiate from the center most vital part of our being. From heart to heart, soul to soul we infuse energy into our consciousness. For each of us on the road to healing it is the best way to come to life. I am going to give of myself today. What about you?