DEAR ABBY: I clearly remember my first Valentine's Day. I was in first grade. A few days before, my mom asked how many kids were in my class, and we went to a store and bought large packages of valentines -- one for every child in the class. The cards were all the same size and said, basically, the same thing.
When I arrived at school, each classmate had a small box on his or her desk. At some point during the day, I went around the room and gave each child a valentine. There was one for the quiet one in the back, the most popular girl in class, the prettiest and even the boys. This was long before society taught me that such a show of affection had to exclude people of the same gender as me. By the end of the day, everyone had a full box of valentines to take home.
One desk, one box ... the love of a child.
As I grew older, society taught me to narrow my offering of affection, picking only those I chose to be special or worthy. Eventually, I was taught to limit my valentines to only one person. More time went on, and then a card was not enough. To show that really special person what she meant to you, you needed to send flowers, candy and jewelry.
Apparently, as we grew older it took more and more to fill those boxes. Now we absolutely could not give to more than one person. People hire detectives to make sure that the person isn't filling anyone else's. And if you had no one to send you anything, you were saddened by your big, empty box filled only with sadness and despair.
Today, I am taking back from society what it has taken from me. I'm counting how many people play a role in my life, and I am buying "virtual" packages of cards. I have one for every single one of you -- man or woman, young or old, straight or gay, married or single. Each card is the same size, they all say the same thing -- that I appreciate who you are and what you have to contribute to each other.
I invite each and every one to do the same, so that no box is empty and the shy ones, the pretty ones, the popular ones and those who are less so go home tonight with a full box of valentines.
One virtual desk, one virtual box, and the love of a child at heart. I wish you all a happy Valentine's Day. -- ERIC IN LOS ALAMITOS, CALIF.
DEAR ERIC: Your letter touched me -- and I am sure that everyone who reads it wishes the same for you.