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“As we become more inwardly free from our conditioning and our fears, the love and connection that are possible in relationships tend to flow through us more naturally. As our defenses are lowered, our heart opens, and there is a natural desire to give from the generosity of the heart. We discover that genuine happiness in relationships is not a product of having our expectations met or getting what we want but rather it is the consequence of freely giving in order to bring happiness to another.” –– Ezra Bayda, “Giving Through Relationships”
Stepping back in time to Valentine’s Day 1996: Emma (my daughter) was a year-old toddler then, and we were visiting Twin Oaks, our sister intentional community in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. We were there to do work-exchange as members of Sandhill Farm community in northeast Missouri. A group of Twin Oakers had made the long trek to visit with us the previous autumn in order to lend a hand with our sorghum harvest season — a major production using primarily hand labor in the fields. This harvest lasts for several weeks and includes the stripping and cutting of cane, loading into wagons to transport to “Sugar Shack” (where the cooking occurs), squeezing cane between mighty rollers to extract its green juice, cooking down the juice into black, nutrient-rich syrup, decanting into jars, and affixing labels for sale.
During our exchange visit, I witnessed Twin Oakers celebrate Valentine’s Day by re-framing it to VALIDATION DAY. Each year, the members make beautiful cards for each member of their community using colored paper, pens, images clipped from magazines, art, poetry, photographs, etc. The cards are displayed in the dining hall for several weeks leading up to the special day. During that period, members write affirmations and words of love and appreciation for the recipient. The cards are then given out on Validation Day as part of a community-wide, heartwarming celebration of love, generosity and connection.
What I especially appreciate about Validation Day is that it affirms the high value of human beings — our greatest and most valuable planetary resource — instead of valuing things/goods/money over people, and it’s a lot of fun, too. Not a single person gets left out, and everyone feels loved. In other words, it is a process to gift each person with the clear consciousness that they are truly seen for the amazing contribution they ARE, rather than using money to buy a thing to express one’s love and appreciation. It’s an element of a paradigm shift from the dominant paradigm of our complex, materialistic and consumerist culture. This alternative way also places high value upon living in voluntary simplicity, homespun crafts and entertainment, sustainable ecology.
This sweet memory led to an experiment in generosity to honor our human worthiness, especially the high worth of women. Yesterday (February 14th), I practiced Validation Day merged with the Gift Economy! I created 14 unique Validation Cards for the women in my weekly Tuesday afternoon Women’s Tea. With the cards spread out in my hand, I walked around the table and invited them to choose their card… saying that each woman would choose the card that was right for her. On the front of each card was a significant word (the recipient’s special word for the day). Some of the words included were hope, believe, powerful, endless possibilities, trust, along with the phrase:
“to love is to recognize yourself in another.”
Inside was a beautiful art photo and words of validation corresponding to the photo, like “you are a majestic child of the Universe.”
We shared our cards, our responses to them, and our stories about our best and worst Valentine’s Day. Collectively, we laughed with delight and also mourned a few losses. This Validation Day was my best because I shared it with my sisters in this way; plus, in the act of creating the cards and then gifting to women, I gave myself perhaps the best Valentine’s gift of all: I affirmed my own self-love, goodness and intrinsic value as a flower of Buddha nature. The infinite love in my heart happily pours forth in the practice of generosity, gratitude, and intentionally choosing to manifest joy and well being. Happy Validation Day! You are beautiful love.
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