Ken shares his thoughts on the spirit of Valentine’s Day

For most males in serious relationships, Valentine’s Day is one of three days each year that strike fear in their hearts, the others being their partner’s birthday and their wedding anniversary. Get it right, or you die. Forget the dates, and you die. I have all these dates dutifully calendared, with a fail-safe advance warning system of alarms and periodic audible reminders as a back-up. My system should be infallible, right, unless I go blind or deaf, neither of which seem likely despite my rapidly approaching senior status.

Well, the fear of death or grave bodily harm has a way of causing paranoia, especially when the risk of “getting Valentine’s Day wrong” is a year of public humiliation and not-so-subtle retribution. Forget the possibility of death, the thought of an impromptu spousal “supplemental”
bris ceremony or a second, but unlicensed vasectomy, is motivation enough to cover all possible bases. In fact, I may prefer death over the other options.

As I pondered those thoughts, I decided that I needed a hedge against the “what ifs,” implausible as they may seem. So, I added a daily prophylactic dosage of Prevagen, which, if you haven’t been paying attention to the TV ads, is a new memory enhancer made from a compound originally found in Pacific Northwest jellyfish. Yes, local jellyfish. Apparently, our little floaters do more than just sting — they always know where they’ve been, where they are going, and never forget important relationship dates. What can I say? Desperation makes for strange bedfellows. To paraphrase the wife of Alabama’s recent senatorial candidate, Judge Roy Moore, I am now proud to say as proof of my open-mindedness, “some of my best friends are jellyfish.”

All playful teasing aside, we shouldn’t need an annual reminder to celebrate those with whom we share the journey of life. We should celebrate daily. The spirit of Valentine’s Day, however, deserves everyone’s respect, even those who are not in romantic relationships, but for reasons that we often overlook. Flowers, chocolate, a candlelight dinner and a card from Hallmark, none of these traditional “tag ups” truly do justice to the power of one—to that one person who believes in you and loves you regardless of your faults, and because she or he does, you have the courage of two to tackle the world.

The older I get, the more I think about whether my life has mattered. Am I making a difference? Will I be remembered? What is my legacy? These types of questions come naturally with age, particularly as the circle of life starts to close. But young or old, if we are honest with ourselves, we all want to matter. And yet, it takes courage to matter, to venture forward, to take risks, fearful of failure and afraid of uncertainty. In those inevitable moments of self-doubt, when we may want to shrink from the challenge, the courage to take the first step often comes from a hug and a push by the “one” or perhaps even the “many.” Valentine’s Day is the day to return those hugs and to say, “thank you.”

Seldom do we reach our full potential in life alone.
We all need, at some level, for someone to believe in
us. That someone doesn’t have to be one’s life partner necessarily — she or he could be a coach, teacher, father, mother, sister or brother, friend, or pastor. My point is simply that the power of one can change the trajectory of another’s life, and as a consequence, countless others. We may not even deserve the hug or the push, but both come nonetheless. And, whether we admit it or not, even the most self-reliant among us know the difference that unconditional love makes. With the courage of two, we think to ourselves, “as long as you are with me, I can do this.”

This is the spirit of Valentine’s Day, a day to be grateful, a testament to the needs of the human spirit, and a celebration of the power of one. Throughout the course of history, incredible tales of loved ones separated by tragic circumstances, such as war or natural disasters, inspire us to pen soaring poems, songs, and passages about the strength of the will to survive when fueled by love of a single person. Ask yourself, “what if a tragedy happened to me” and then don’t wait for tragedy to strike. Use Valentine’s Day to express appreciation, or perhaps to be the “one” for someone else.

For those who are disillusioned with the commercial aspects of Valentine’s Day, don’t let pop-culture define the day. Embrace its spirit; make the day have meaning. Celebrate your blessings by honoring those who gave you the courage of two. Gratitude can never be expressed too often.

And remember as you search for the perfect words of appreciation, without the power of one, life can be very lonely.

Did you like the Final Word? Read more by Ken in our Lifestyle section / Final Word.


"In those inevitable moments of self-doubt, when we may want to shrink from the challenge, the courage to take the first step often comes from a hug and a push by the “one” or perhaps even the 'many.'"