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Kalish: A Gift Of Roses


I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. Not for the cupids or romantic dinners with partners. But, for the holiday of grade school: when everyone got a Valentine, because it was a day to celebrate Love, writ large. An official day for Kindness. So, for years, I’ve looked forward to February 14th. I love the “smallness” of the gifts. Little bundles of candy. Tiny, heart-shaped do-dads. A single rose.

I bring chocolates in for my students. And I send my nieces and nephew fun, silly things, like my Mom would send me when she was alive. Almost not worth the postage. But, that wasn’t the point. The point was the smile and the feeling of being loved in ways so large that it warranted something so small.

But for some reason, this year I kept forgetting about February 14th. The displays of candy in the Co-op seemed oddly unappealing to me… and I hadn’t sent anything south.

The world was not feeling like a “Kind” place. All the daily scandals. Bald-face corruption. Lies. Racism. Hypocrisy. And when the news broke about the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, I realized… I felt defeated.

I packed up my things and I left the office.

But, as I walked out through the library, I started seeing something lovely. I was passing students carrying single, long-stemmed roses. How sweet. But then there were more. And more. Until I realized… someone was handing out roses. To everyone.

As I crested the stairwell, I saw them. A female student and a man who looked like a professor were standing in the cafe with buckets of roses. I was so touched by this gesture, I needed to know who was sponsoring it. But the answer I got was confusing: “Classics 1.” But courses don’t have budgets…

I later learned that it was a single professor, who had done this entirely on his own, this expression of love, simultaneously so grand and yet so simple.

I have no idea how many people he touched that day. And I have no idea what it meant to each of them. For me, it was a much-needed reminder that, even when it might seem otherwise, love and generosity and kindness are real.

And on this Valentine’s Day, the human connection embodied in the act of handing someone a rose touched me so deeply, I could have wept for its beauty.

Julie Kalish is a Vermont attorney and Lecturer at Dartmouth College in the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric. She is a board member for Vermont ACLU. She lives in Norwich.
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