02/05/2014 12:50 EST | Updated 04/07/2014 05:59 EDT

Use This Valentine's Day To Plant Trees, Not Destroy Them

Valentine's Day is fast approaching. Just recovering from the warmth of Christmas love and giving and there is another opportunity to share.

It is said the holiday came about because of a note Valentinus, a Christian, incarcerated for his religious beliefs, wrote to his jailer's blind daughter whose sight he had restored.

It read: "From your Valentine."

He gave it to her just before he was killed by the state, February 14 269 C.E.

Another layer was added to the story in 5th century Rome . On February 14, men would draw women's names and court them in honour of Juno, pagan goddess of love and marriage. Then the day was given a religious tone by Pope Gelasius who declared February 14 as St. Valentine's day in honour of the martyred Valentinus.

But it took good old American ingenuity to turn the festivities into an economic driver. In 1849, Esther Howland of Worcester Mass published the first valentine.

How far we have come.

Approximately "142 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged industry-wide (not including packaged kids' valentines for classroom exchanges), making Valentine's Day the second-largest holiday for giving greeting cards."

But there's more than cards. For our children there all kinds of novelties and knick-knacks from stickers and sticker books, to oh-so cute and adorable plush toys. And for the older folk there's chocolate-from white to milk to dark; flowers and of course jewellery-never forget that diamonds are a girls' best friends.

The Statistics Canada Commodity Retail Survey in 2011 provided a breakdown of all purchases from retailers for Valentine's Day: "$2.4 billion on jewelry and watches; $2.4 billion for cosmetics and fragrances; $1.6 billion lingerie, sleepwear and intimates; $634.6 million on men's underwear, sleepwear and hosiery;$1.2 billion on giftware, novelties and souvenirs; $2.9 billion on stationary, office supplies, cards, gift wrap and party supplies."

According to the retail Council of Canada the average Canadian household in 2013 was expected to spend $37 on gifts for that special someone in their lives while the average American man was planning to spend $160 on gifts for the "one" in his life.

The things we buy for our children and the cards that are shared will end up recycled by the next week. What will our children learn from this?

Valentine's Day offers a great opportunity for parents to teach the meaning of compassion and love, like the kind displayed by Valentinus: caring for another outside one's circle. Agapé. Valentine's Day is a great time to teach that we can't always have what we want, and more importantly, so many children around the world rarely get what they need.

Through Plan Canada for $37 one can support Rick Mercer's passion: buy three bed nets that help prevent malaria. At $10 each there's still money left for a card and some chocolate. Or you can purchase school essentials for $17 a child. Purchase two and still have some money left over for a card. Or you can buy chickens for $17 and help a family sustain themselves. And in the card you can tell your loved one that you shared all your blessings with those less fortunate.

Hallmark Canada estimated Canadians would buy 10 to 12 million Valentine's Day cards in 2013. That's about $27 to $29-million- on cards.

Think of the trees that are cut down for those cards. Instead of destroying trees, why not plant them as a permanent marker of your love for them and love of the land.

In the Bible there are two stories about the "birth" of Adam. Genesis 1:26: God said:

"Let us make man in our image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild animals and all the creatures that creep along the ground."

The second story comes from Genesis 2:7: God shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living being. This Adam was made from the land, adam, earth. He is part of nature, not master of it. He is captivated with all of creation because of his connection to the ground beneath him. We can be like this Adam on Valentine's Day.

We are after all, the guardians of all that is before us.

"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." (Psalm 24:1)

Buy fruit trees for $15 dollars from Plan Canada. Or support Trees Ontario or the Charitree Foundation.

Show your children your love of them by teaching them how to be the care-takers of this world.

Happy Valentine's Day.


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