Love from the Inside (Another View)

February 14, 2017

Contrary to the billion-dollar greeting card industry, Valentine’s Day is not only about syrupy messages, flowers and candy—although I do love chocolate! The origins of this day are rooted in the story of a priest, St. Valentine, who was imprisoned in Rome about the year 270 A.D. Some say he was martyred because he officiated at marriages which was against the law. The Roman authorities thought that married men were less willing to fight and so Claudius II declared marriages illegal! The priest thought differently and paid the price of imprisonment and eventually martyrdom. However, the night before he was executed, he thanked the jailkeeper’s young daughter for her kindness by sending her a note signed “Your Valentine.” So, it goes, the tradition of sending kind or loving notes was begun.

As I reflect on this and care about the staff of Prairie View, I began to wonder if we could re-imagine our valentines. It is obvious that social workers and therapists, plus all support staff and administrators at a large mental health facility, face lots of obstacles—maybe modern-day “prison” bars. There are the mountains of documentation and records to complete. There are licensure requirements—ever changing, ever increasing. There are budgets that are underfunded. There are positions open in search of qualified personnel. There are personal demands—from families, education requirements, health issues, financial struggles and multi-generational pressures. Our “prison” bars block our outlook and maybe even skews our view.

The ironic thing about our vocation, as part of the Prairie View family, is that we see people each day who need a kind word, a gentle voice and an extension of encouragement. And, just as often, our clients tell us “thank you,” “I needed that,” or even “you saved my life.” The miracle of relationship heals the deep hurts. The message of caring begins a new perspective. The vocation of working together as a team begins to unravel complex problems. The business of advocacy for those who are voiceless brings new life to those we meet.

This Valentine’s Day, send a note to someone who is kind. But also be open to receiving a note of kindness. Let the “bars” that keep us captive become a little less visible, a little less strong. As you reach out in professional caring ways, the things that capture us will also lessen the “bars” that imprison others.

“…And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13)

Dorothy Nickel Friesen is a retired Mennonite pastor after 35 years in ministry. During those years, she was a congregational pastor, an Assistant Dean at a seminary in Indiana and a denominational conference minister for a regional body with headquarters in North Newton, KS. As a second-career pastor, her first vocation was a decade of teaching high school English where she advocated for communication as important work. She recently completed nine years on the Prairie View Board, which she found challenging and rewarding. This monthly column, “Another View,” is a continuation of her love of writing and support of Prairie View.

Now, with less work demands, she spends time reading, baking, attending her daughter’s family’s (including two incredible grandchildren) events in Wichita, traveling to see her other daughter in Ohio, her mother in Minnesota and her brother in Colorado. Sunday afternoon naps and snacks of chocolate are favorite pastimes.