The world runs on a lot of things.
Wind. Water. Hard work. Dunkin’.
But more and more I’m beginning to believe that the most powerful, eco-friendly sources of energy that our world runs on are kindness and love.
A few months ago, right before last semester ended, I spent the weekend at my grandparents’, which always seems to elicit blog-worthy thoughts. The bus arrived and as we were exiting, I noticed a young man about my age helping an older woman, who he had been sitting next to, with her luggage. That’s sweet, he’s helping his grandmother, I assumed. I disembarked right behind the pair, so I saw a middle-aged woman (presumably her daughter) help the older woman off the bus, as the older woman introduced the young man to her. It turns out the young man was a student at UW-M who had just noticed that the woman needed help at the beginning of the trip, so he accompanied her the entire way. Swoon.
When it was time for me to return to campus, my grandmother handed me a little paper bag. Inside it was a lunch for the bus ride, complete with an egg salad sandwich wrapped in wax paper, a cookie, and a peeled orange. The orange, my grandmother explained, was peeled because she didn’t want me to have to fuss with peeling it on the bus.
I’ll illustrate why this is significant. I am a very capable, independent 21-year-old. I go to school five hours from home and somehow find ways to fend for myself. So to be thought of in such a small, detailed way tugged and twisted a lot of heartstrings.
After I picked up the pieces of my exploded heart, I started thinking that kindness and love keep people going. A lot of bad things have happened in the world lately (the fattest understatement of the century). The good stuff, the big and small people helping people stuff, helps the human engine stay up and running.
When I was in grade school, I used to agonize over which commercial valentine to send to each of my classmates. Assigning the different designs to my 23 peers was a delightful task, but also an art. Good friends always got the bigger valentines, or the ones with the cutest puppy on it. You had to be careful about the flirty ones; you didn’t want cootie-laden so-and-so to get any ideas. I always kept it super platonic with the kids I didn’t know as well. The smoothest valentines always went to the second grade heartthrobs.
Now love has a cool way of manifesting itself at this 21-year-old stage (not that my baby animal valentines weren’t DOPE). But now I’m old enough to recognize how deeply my grandparents and parents love us kids and I’m old enough to show them my own love in ways than extend beyond macaroni art and glitter hearts. I’m old enough to take care of people but I’m young enough to be on the receiving end of a lot of “looking after you” love too. I’m young enough to not yet know romantic love and old enough to know that romantic love isn’t enough.
This dynamic love is why Valentine’s Day is a reason to celebrate for everyone, even for the perpetual singles out there. This past weekend I visited my grandparents again, this time celebrating Love Day, and they treated me to a weekend overflowing with cookies and featuring a romantic dinner with crème brulee and wine and a bread basket that I single-handedly destroyed. At the restaurant it occurred to me that we were just as appropriately celebrating Valentine’s Day as the young couples and the families there. Love isn’t limited to a Hallmark-esque genre (though we also kicked back this weekend to watch those irresistibly sappy movies), but rather it’s dynamic and manifests in different relationships and little acts of kindness.
So here’s to love and kindness and that UW-M guy and foil valentines and heart-shaped doughnuts.