I never cared much for Valentine’s Day till I had a kid. I always wrote the holiday off as some retail industry BS made to sell chocolate and flowers while making single women feel awful about themselves. (I still stand by that, btw.) But perhaps my heart expanded when I had my daughter Satya - or I softened - but somewhere between wearing all black on Vday in High school to poorly co-crafting 25 handmade cards for her friends and teachers while also ordering an entire chocolate heart-shaped cake from Choc o Pain for dinner, it appears I’ve had a change of heart.
These days, I’m all about the love any way I can get it. Last year, my 4-year-old daughter Satya and her awesome class at Hoboken Little School made cards for the kids battling cancer at Hackensack Hospital. They were misshapen and magnificent - huge hits at the clinic. (Satya is a cancer survivor and the kids and families fighting pediatric cancer hold a very special place in our hearts.) This year her class of pre-schoolers did the same. The teachers tell me the kids really enjoyed the process and were happy to share their love with kids in the hospital. At home, we do an easy little Valentine’s Day project that makes a lot of people smile. I cut out hearts from construction paper - around 20-30 multicolored “hearts” I was pretty impressed with till my honest 4-year-old told me look like butts. (FFS, I’m a writer, not an artist, but what I lack in ability I make up for in enthusiasm.) Satya decorates them with stickers and markers. (Pro tip: skip the glitter, no one wants to clean that shit up.) And on Wednesday - or Thursday, let’s be honest, I rarely do things on time - we hand them out to people we love and people we think could use a little love.
Satya says she’s giving some to her crossing guards and my baristas. She’s got a special one for Mr. Mike at Tony Baloney’s, Dr. Parikh, Summer and Brigid at Athleta, Betsy at Starbucks, her teachers from last year, and some of my friends she now considers her own. And the rest, she gives out as she pleases - a mix of random people she’s never met and familiar faces around town. It’s a sweet and simple little exercise and encourages her innate ability to bring a little joy. And it’s a gentle reminder for me to learn from her example and stop for a few minutes and open my own heart. The truth is, it all goes by so fast. Spread the love. Eat the cake. Squish the little and big people you love and share some smiles with some strangers along the way, too.
Raakhee Mirchandani is an editor, writer and pediatric cancer crusader. She is proudly - and slowly - running the New York City 1/2 marathon in March as a St. Jude Hero to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. If you have a couple extra bucks, please consider donating here.