Hereford Times Article - 14/02/19
Did you hear about the Valentine cards with “I love only you” printed in them, sold in packets of six?
The date of Valentine’s Day, February 14th, is as well-known as almost any date other than Christmas, much to the delight of card manufacturers.
The origin of the day is surrounded by all sorts of myths and legends.
It started as a Christian feast day honouring one or two early saints called Valentine.
It was in the eighteenth century, Wikipedia tells me, that Valentine’s Day evolved into an occasion on which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards – which was just as well from a commercial point of view.
I must resist old man’s cynicism becoming apparent. Writing as someone who always discouraged his children from observing Fathers’ Day and who now begs for a card from them, I must be careful of what I wish for if I play down Valentine’s Day.
Anyway, the last thing I want to do is to pour cold water on any celebration of Valentine’s Day or the love and romance that are at its heart.
But I do want to put Valentine’s Day love in perspective with other aspects of love – and lack of it.
I suppose the opposite of love is technically hate, but I tend to think that the opposite of love is actually loneliness, which is one of the major scourges of today.
The statistics are appalling and overwhelming. I’ve pinched these from a recent edition of the Tablet. In the past two years, ChildLine counsellors have noticed a rise in the number of children – some as young as six – contacting them to complain of loneliness, with triggers including feeling “invisible”, feeling “ugly and unpopular” as a result of comparing themselves with others on social media, and having an illness or disability.
It’s worth remembering this Valentine’s Day that seventeen million people in the UK are unattached. Fifty-eight per cent of migrants and refugees in London describe loneliness and isolation as their biggest challenge. And so on….
These facts do not contradict the significance of Valentine’s Day. Rather they do, I believe, offer an implicit challenge to all of us. There isn’t an easy cure for a loneliness epidemic. But each of us has the opportunity to be alert to the loneliness of others and respond with concern and friendship.
Richard Frith – Bishop of Hereford.