According to a consumer spending survey by the National Retail Federation, Americans were expected to spend $18.9 billion dollars this year on Valentine’s Day. That works out to more than $142 per person, up from $133 last year.
If that sounds high, it’s because the $1.7 billion spent on candy (by 57.3 percent of the populace) is overshadowed by an anticipated $4.8 billion in jewelry sales to the 21 percent of those who’ll be upping the ante with shiny adornments or handsome watches for their significant other.
Flowers are still popular: 37.8 percent of people plan to spend $2.1 billion on those. Restaurants and theaters should have a banner night, as 35.1 percent of respondents are planning a night out, to the tune of $3.1 billion. It doesn’t hurt that Valentine’s Day comes on a Saturday this year.
If all else fails in the government’s bid to improve the economy, perhaps Congress could enact a new law adding additional Valentine’s Days to the calendar.
Not everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day, of course. Like Charlie Brown, who famously never gets any valentines, people who aren’t currently in a romantic relationship sometimes refer to it as Singles Awareness Day (S.A.D.), and contribute to the economy by treating themselves.
Others who are in a relationship but not very romantic refer to February 14 as Forced Affection Day, when you can land in the doghouse precisely by doing nothing at all.
You’ll note that I’ve written six paragraphs about Valentine’s Day without mentioning the word “love.” While one would hope that most Valentine’s gifts and outings are motivated by love and a real desire to celebrate mutual affection, we know that’s not always the case. Endearments that grow from guilt or peer pressure don’t really display love at all.
For the writer of 1 John, the central identifying characteristic of Christian believers is that they love others — all others, not just their spouses or families. It’s something broader and more demanding than the mutually rewarding affection we share with our romantic partners; definitely more of a choice than a feeling.
I like the way the late Malcolm Tolbert described it years ago:
God does not love people in the abstract. He loves them as persons, with all their contradictions and all the traits that make it difficult to love them. When people open their lives to his love, they discover that it is a restless love, always reaching out to other human beings. The only way that we can really play it safe is to have nothing to do with God’s love. Then we can retain the privilege of deciding who is good enough for us to associate with.
In that way we can remain isolated in the ghetto of our indifference and take comfort in how religious we are and how much better than other people we are.
It is dangerous for people to come into contact with God’s love. It makes them do foolish, reckless, disturbing things. It makes them challenge the suffocating strictures of society that shut men off from one another. It causes them, thoughtless of their own security and position, to give themselves away in order to help others. (Malcolm O. Tolbert, Walking With the Lord [Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970], 101-102).
For believers, Others Awareness Day is not an annual event: it comes every day.