Of all the fun days the year I taught nursery school, Valentine’s Day was the very best. The children were as excited over exchanging little cheap valentine cards as lovely ladies are over a dozen red roses. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but they really went into spasms over those tiny cards with their names on them. We decorated shoeboxes, as I remember, so each child had their own mailbox with their name on it. Each one dropped a card in every one of the boxes so they all got wonderful sweet mail. It was an exercise in recognizing each others’ names. But, mainly, it was fun!
Of course we had special cookies that day too. But the mail was the best. My own son was one of my students so I had the pleasure of seeing him open his cards at home and giggle at the cartoon characters all asking in some way or other “Will you be my valentine?” Naturally, there were a few he treasured more than others, not because of the funny messages but because of who they were from. The names were very important.
Some of the first words we teach ESL students are “What is your name?” followed by the answer “My name is ______.” Everyone likes to hear their own name pronounced correctly unless, of course, they’re being reprimanded. One’s name is a valuable possession. In the movie “Redeeming Love” (playing now at Georgia’s oldest theater, The Zebulon in Cairo) the heroine, a victim of sex abuse, keeps her real name a secret always using her alias, Angel. When she reveals her name finally to her redeeming husband she explains “My name was all I could keep as my very own.”
These days our mailboxes are full of pieces from political candidates, crazy catalogs, and windowed envelopes disclosing bills. Our names are on them but what jumps out at us in the stack of mail is any personal letters or cards, our names written in the handwriting of a friend or family member. There aren’t many of those now. We communicate by e-mail, by text, or by phone. But there was a time when letters in the box were our main link to those far away.
At Young Harris College in early sixties many of us walked after dinner to the tiny post office, located just inside the campus, the very edge of where we were allowed to go without signing out. There was excitement and some confusion as we jostled to see in our very own post office box. What a joy it was to me to see the slant of a letter in my box! I could hardly wait to fumble through my code and pull out my letter with my name written in my mother’s beautiful handwriting. I was only sixty miles from home but she wrote to me regularly.
The summer before my husband and I married in 1965 I spent ten weeks as a summer worker at a mission in Louisiana’s bayous. Charles worked two jobs in Atlanta, one for the CDC, the other as kennel help for a veterinarian on weekends. When we parted in June Charles said he might write me a line or two. How exciting it was when, twice a week, I discovered an envelope with my name amongst my supervising missionary’s mail. She greatly enjoyed seeing my pleasure in receiving those letters.
It still is a treat to find personal mail. Valentine’s Day is a good time to send mail to some who might not otherwise see their name on an envelope. It’s a good time to let dear ones know you’re thinking about them, maybe drop a little humor into their mailbox. And it’s a good time to remind folks that, above all, God loves them.
God knows everybody’s name! He knows your name!
For God so loved the world (say your name in place of world) that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever (say your name in place of whoever) believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)
Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name and you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (ESV)