To my dearest America,
It’s Valentine’s Day and I feel the need to express my feelings for you, even though our relationship has been rocky as of late.
Let me begin by simply acknowledging the fact that I am extremely lucky to call you mine. I realize my blessing, and this is why I’m writing this Valentine’s letter to you.
We have had wonderful days and months and years together. We have created memories to last a lifetime. We have dreamed dreams and seen many of them come to fruition.
On Valentine’s Days past we have felt head-over-heels in love with each other. But as with all relationships, ours ebbs and flows. This just happens to be an off-year, I guess.
In order for us to move forward, I need to get something off of my chest:
For several months I have been passive-aggressively waiting for you to admit that you have wronged me, that you messed up, that it’s been your fault. For far too long I’ve bottled up my bitterness toward you without even trying to articulate it. I haven’t been fair to you. I’ve just been sitting on the sidelines, waiting.
But now I realize that the key to any relationship moving forward is for one person to humbly suck it up, apologize, and take proactive steps toward reconciliation. That is exactly what I intend to do.
This Valentine’s Day I am making a commitment to you, to step up my game. I no longer want to wallow in self-pity. I want to return to what we once had, and I can’t pretend that we’ll become great again if I just wait for it to happen.
I also know that words and ideas can fall on deaf ears without practical steps of action to back them. I can’t fix everything at once, so here are some baby steps that I intend to pursue in the coming days:
- I will meet my neighbors. Whether they have a different color skin, worship a different god, cheer for different team or have a family that looks drastically different from mine, our neighborhood will only be as strong as the friendships between our homes (even if all I do is learn their names!).
- I will volunteer. There are so many nonprofit organizations doing good work in our communities. I’m done sitting back and complaining. I want to contribute to the betterment of my community using my own hands.
- I will listen first and talk second. Both of these aspects are important. For too long I’ve been pretending to listen without engaging. OR, I’ve been talking over you without pausing to consider that I could be wrong. I intend to actively and humbly listen first, and then respectfully engage in the conversation in ways that I feel will actually help.
- I will brag about you to my friends. Again, I fully recognize the blessing of calling you mine. Even if we don’t feel close at the moment, I am proud of who you are and I want the world to know that I love you.
Yes, this is a list of just four baby steps, but I think they have the potential to make a significant impact on our relationship.
At this point I suppose it would be customary to ask you to be my Valentine, but I’m not going to, because quite frankly, your answer doesn’t matter to me. Don’t get me wrong! I would be elated if you said, “Yes!”
What I mean is that your answer won’t change mine; I’m going to be YOUR Valentine either way.
I’m done waiting. It’s time to make up and move forward, even if I have to pull you with me, because that’s what love is. It’s not a feeling. It’s not an experience. Love is a commitment, an intentional decision to seek the best for each other on a daily basis, even at the expense of one’s own comfort and preference. That’s the commitment I am renewing with you today.
Happy Valentine’s Day, America.
[If you live in the city of Bakersfield, CA (as I do) and you desire to step up YOUR game by volunteering with a local nonprofit, visit the index of volunteer opportunities at www.betterbako.com]