Today is Valentine's Day or El Dia de San Valentin. Here in Mexico it has a special twist to it. It's not just a day to celebrate romantic love between husbands and wives, or girlfriends and boyfriends. It's an all-inclusive celebration of Amor y Amistad, Love and Friendship. I like it better that way. No-one feels left out. Everyone has friends and family. It's a time for giving flowers, chocolates, heart-shaped balloons and cards. For eating pink and red coloured cupcakes and cookies and desserts. Or heart-shaped jelly sweets. And going out to restaurants to eat. They'll be brimming over today.
Yesterday I went up to Casa Daya. Laura, Carmina and I had decided to focus on the topic of Love and Friendship. These young teenage mums aren't too familiar with love and friendship. They've had little of these two gifts. They know more about rejection, abandonment, being used, hit, loneliness. We talked about true love, pure love, agape love.
"Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves.
Love never fails."
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Not an inch of soppy, short-lived romanticism here. This is a strong, powerful, selfless love. Sacrificial love. God's love. This is the kind of love we need more of... in our lives, in our families, in our communities.
Pati wants to say something. Just 16, she arrived a couple of days ago at the home with her 10-month-old little boy. Today is the first time I have seen her. "Amo a mi hijo!" "I love my son!" she declares. Her face is radiant. She's saying that she feels this kind of love for her little boy. Amor materno, maternal love. Alejandra, a mere girl herself, has two daughters. "Yo moriría por mis hijas!", she pipes up. She would give her life for her daughters. She's emphatic. "I would prefer to die myself than see anything happen to them!" I suddenly realise that most of these girls have actually found a beautiful love in this world after all, despite all their hardships and heartaches. The love they feel for their children. I've seen it often in their faces when they rush over to show me their kids, cuddle them.
A bit later, we're engrossed in a special Valentine's Day activity with them. Their eyes light up when they see what they're going to do... covering heart-shaped cookies with white, pink and red icing and decorating them with candy hearts and other things. One for themselves, one for one of the other girls who are at school. "Be creative, think of what they would like!" I watch as they sing to the music in the background and smear icing on the cookies and on themselves. They think about their designs, each cookie is different, and I take photos of their obras de arte, their works of art. They still have time to create a card for one of the other girls, writing something about friendship, and decorating them with stickers of hearts and glitter gel.
Decorating the cookies
Proud of her work of art
Cookies and chocolates
But the biggest surprise for me is when they unexpectedly present me with cards. Beautifully crafted cards, each with their own personality, and a couple of drawings and small gifts. One of the girls has made a tiny scarf for her little baby but gives it to me. A couple of sweets are tucked away in a home-made envelope. Their faces are a picture of delight as I read their poems and what they have written, thanking each one of them. But I bet my face says even more to them. I'm very touched, they've made it a very special day for me. "We prepared it all last week when you were away. They've been waiting to give them to you", say Laura and Carmina. They too have brought chocolates for all the girls and staff. Some of us bite into our cookies and munch away. Mmmm... they taste delicious and sweet, filled with lots of amor y amistad.
My lovely cards from the girls
Me with some of the girls at Casa Daya
Amor y amistad, Love and Friendship.....a wonderful reason for celebrating.