Projects producing valentines for strangers and seniors in Bloomington
A 6-year-old girl and a 38-year-old woman, who don’t know one another but recognize the importance of being valued as a person, are delivering Valentine’s Day love via handmade cards for strangers.
For the past few years, Amie Crites has been leaving random notes of encouragement and support around Bloomington for people to find. She calls them “affirmations” — kindness cards that often contain just a few words, such as “You are special,” or “You are worthy.”
Simple words to spread love. Words that brighten someone’s life.
She recalled working out at Planet Fitness one day and noticing a random Post-it note on a crowded message board with the words “You are the highlight of someone’s day” scrawled on it.
“That made my day,” Crites said. “I took a picture of it. It stayed with me.”
She created a deck of 42 cards and packaged them as “A Cosmic Game of Love.” People can shuffle the deck and choose an affirmation for the day, or leave them individually as she does for others to discover and contemplate.
“I’ll leave one on the counter at Hopscotch Coffee next to the credit card machine or the cream containers, or on a shelf at Kroger next to the mac and cheese,” Crites explained.
She usually doesn’t know who picks them up, but there have been a few chance encounters with card recipients.
While seeking support for her project one day from a store owner, a woman who overheard the discussion approached Crites. “You make these?” she asked, pulling one of Crites’s kindness cards from her wallet. “She’d been carrying it with her for two years.”
When another woman saw her placing a card at the westside Kroger, she told Crites she had found one months before and still kept it in her car. “I didn’t really expect anything big to happen by leaving the cards. It’s just putting them out there in the universe for someone to discover, and maybe realize they are special.”
Crites recently connected with a 6-year-old Bloomington girl who has embarked on a similar mission. Anurika Enyiaku’s project is called Tell-A-Grand, and is focused on sending cards of love and support to senior citizens at nursing homes.
She got the idea while making a card to send her great-uncle, who lives in a nursing home and has had limited access to visitors during the COVID-19 epidemic. Realizing there are other lonely people in similar circumstances, Anurika’s mom established a post office box where people can send cards that will be distributed to people who would appreciate a day brightener.
They have left drop boxes for cards at a few stores around Bloomington, including O’Child Children’s Boutique on the courthouse square and Morgenstern’s bookstore on Auto Mall Road. People also an send cards for distribution at nursing homes to: Tell-A-Grand, P.O. Box 804, Bloomington, IN 47402.
The project is ramped up for Valentine’s Day as Anurika and Crites team up for a public card-making event open to anyone. It’s at Morgenstern’s from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Crites will be passing the valentines out, randomly and with a smile, throughout Monday.
“Anurika’s focus is seniors and mine is strangers,” she said, “but it all comes down to spreading love and kindness.”
In the beginning, Valentine’s Day was about food. It wasn’t created by a greeting card company, the floral industry or sellers of chocolate as a way to cash in on the benefits of love, as some may believe.
No, what was originally known as the Feast of Saint Valentine goes way, way back to Pope Gelasius I, who, in the year 496, established the celebration to honor the memory of Saint Valentine of Rome. He was a Christian martyr who had died more than 200 years earlier on Feb. 14.
Other accounts say the celebration originated with a mid-February Roman festival called Lupercalia. The event recognized the coming of spring, celebrated fertility and paired women with men by a lottery. So, there may have been an amorous angle.
Either way, by the 15th century, the holiday had evolved into one focused on love and the giving of flowers, gifts and cards now called valentines. It’s celebrated around the world.
The earliest known valentine is a 15th-century poem France’s Duke of Orleans wrote for his wife while being held prisoner in the Tower of London. “Je suis desja d’amour tanné, ma tres doulce Valentinée,” it began.
Translation: “I am already sick of love, my very gentle Valentine.”
You likely won’t see that verse on a modern greeting card, or any of the valentines Crites and Anurika deliver.
Contact reporter Laura Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org, 812-331-4362 or 812-318-5967.