This article first appeared in the Marathon Mercury, February 2021.
St. Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays folks tend to hate or love. I’m all for any excuse to love on my family and friends, and I enjoy any ritual that involves handing out free food—especially chocolate. But, I understand the anti-Valentine’s Day faction turning up their noses. Love is not store bought, pricey or branded; love is an activity, not a product.
This year, if you haven’t participated in Have A Heart Day, I want to invite you to try something new on Feb. 14th.
Have A Heart Day was started by The Caring Society as “a child and youth-led reconciliation event that brings together caring Canadians to help ensure First Nations children have the opportunity to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of who they are”. There are lots of different ways to participate but the most popular is sending Valentine’s Day cards and letters to our elected representatives asking them to “have a heart” for Indigenous kids.
Love is an activity. Love is speaking up, speaking out, standing by, listening closely, and holding up others. And it is certainly not confined to one day of the year!
As settler people we must think critically about how we are loving First Nations, Métis and Inuit kids. We must grapple with the reality of Residential Schools and events like the Sixties Scoop. We still struggle to acknowledge that these historical events are not over and done with: their legacy lives on. Our country continues to enact policies that actively harm or disregard Indigenous children and youth. This is not love.
All children deserve to be happy and safe, to grow up with all the tools they need in order to be healthy and receive a good education. All children deserve to be proud of who they are and connected with their culture. Have A Heart Day tells our leaders that we will not accept our society as it is, we will not accept the unfair ways our country treats First Nations, Métis and Innuit kids.
It’s also a celebration of the creativity, intelligence, and spirit that Indigenous kids have. Just as Black History month is not only about focusing on the trauma of the past, but also celebrating those of African descent, Have A Heart Day celebrates the power and strength of these kids, who know the difference between love and hate, fair and unfair. Kids are naturally wired for justice, and they don’t mind telling us when we’ve got it wrong.
I hope you feel inspired to participate this Feb. 14th. Maybe there’s a young person in your life you want to talk about Have A Heart Day with and write some letters together. I hope you teach by example that love is not store bought, it is an activity. (Learn more and find printable templates at fncaringsociety.com/have-a-heart.)