My oldest daughter Emma came into the kitchen while I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes. “Mom,” she said. “I have an idea for Valentine’s Day.”
I glanced at the calendar. It was January 14. I was still recovering from Christmas.
“Okay,” I said, as I rinsed off a plate and loaded it into the dishwasher. “Let’s hear it.”
“Well, I found this paper cutter than makes these little hearts.” She held up a two-inch white paper heart. “I thought that we could write on these hearts what we love about each other. Then we could tape them onto a bigger heart.” She tucked a strand of blond hair behind her ear. “That way, when Valentine’s Day gets here we’re already in the habit of giving each other compliments and love.” She was a little breathless after her explanation. “What do you think?”
I’d stopped loading the dishwasher as her idea unfolded. “I think it’s a wonderful plan,” I told her.
Together we cut out a large heart from a big cardboard box, and then she and her sister painted it red. Emma filled a small basket with little paper hearts. When the cardboard heart was dry, I hung it on the wall in the kitchen.
The next week, I watched our Family Love Heart fill up with white paper hearts. Clara, who is eight, wrote the most concrete inscriptions: “I love Dad’s gray hair.” And “I love Emma’s non-egg eating self.” Emma tended to use a lot of exclamation points and capital letters. “I LOVE Clara’s cuteness!!” “My parents ROCK!” I was delighted when I discovered that my husband had drawn a pictogram that read “I love Melissa.”
As the weeks passed, it was easy to see that we were all affected by our growing collection of paper hearts. My girls were kinder to one another, and my husband and I smiled with more frequency. We laughed more often as a family, and forgave each other more easily. I began to notice all kinds of things that I love about the people in my life. So much so, that I often stopped mid-task to run over to the kitchen wall and add a heart.
Emma was on to something. Love is habit-forming.
So I have to wonder. What if every household was required to hang a Family Love Heart on its kitchen wall? What if all across the globe, families were making love a habit? How would that infusion of love affect our schools, our communities, our world?
As Mother Teresa so simply stated, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
I believe love is what keeps hate and evil from cracking our world into a million little pieces. As corny or naive as it may sound, I think that a Family Love Heart, the brainchild of a ten-year-old, could be more effective at keeping humankind from imploding than the most sensible foreign policy, the biggest stockpile of weapons, or the stablest of economies. Love as a habit. Love as a grassroots movement.
Today is Valentine’s Day. To celebrate this day of love, I go and stand before our Family Love Heart. I look at each inscription, lifting up edges to read the messages that are tucked beneath, and am filled to the brim with love. When finished reading, I pluck one of the white hearts from the basket. On it I write, “I love the whole wide world,” and tape it directly in the center of all of our family love.
Do your part to save humankind. Start your own version of a Love Heart today.