By Jon and Tanya Parks
Do you remember getting Valentine’s Day cards? When I was young – and when our girls were still in U.S. schools – you brought a Valentine card for everyone in your class. A little box would come with 10-12 small cards, and they usually had some kind of cartoon character, a bad pun, and maybe a piece of candy. Except for the rare occasions when someone made their own cards, these were about as impersonal as a card can get… ironic for something we give out in celebration of love.
In Slovakia, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of romantic love: Husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends might exchange gifts or cards. But children here don’t always celebrate with the little store-bought cards – especially the Roma children, whose families wouldn’t be able to afford them anyway.
Perhaps they’re better off not getting those impersonal cards… but at the same time, there are some kids we work with who really need to hear that someone loves them.
That’s why we were intrigued when a small package showed up a few weeks ago from Ash Camp Baptist in Keysville, Virginia, one of our Encourager Churches. Their children’s ministry sent handmade Valentine cards to some of the children we work with – each one bearing a message of encouragement and a reminder of God’s love. When we showed up at the school during Valentine’s week, we brought the cards with us, but we weren’t sure how the kids might react. Would they be glad to receive a card, in a language they can’t yet speak, from the other side of the ocean? Or would it be such a strange experience that they’d put it aside and forget about it?
The normally-boisterous classroom got quiet when we explained what the cards were and who they were from. We talked about the American tradition of school children giving Valentine’s cards, and told them how these children, whom they’d never met, had made these cards especially for them. How they sent their love and prayers with these handmade cards.
The room stayed quiet as we passed out the cards, then the chatter began – they started translating the words they knew, and calling us to translate the words they didn’t know. They asked questions about where these children lived, and why they would send a card to someone they hadn’t met. It was a great opportunity to talk about God’s love for them, and how that love can lead us to show love to others. At the end of our time together, the kids didn’t put the cards aside – they put them into their bags or cubbies to look at later.
Each card was simple, and likely took only a few minutes to make. But it very well could be the only Valentine some of these children ever receive.
We seldom understand what our simple actions mean to others. A handwritten note, an unexpected expression of love or compassion, or even a simple smile can change the course of someone’s day… and maybe have an even bigger impact than that. And we don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day – we can do it anytime, every day.
Take a moment today to show someone a simple act of love… you never know the difference it might make!
Jon and Tanya Parks are CBF field personnel serving in Kosice, Slovakia. Learn more about their ministry and give to make their work possible at www.cbf.net/parks.