A Basketful of Love

I had an amazing teacher from kindergarten through second grade, Ms. Bonnie Hegg. Ms. Hegg saw me not as just another five year-old, but as a soul. She encouraged my creativity by teaching me to play the autoharp; when I cried because I was upset about littering she told me it was important that I cared about the world; when I mastered reading above my level she put me to work teaching the other kids to read. She showed us films like The Red Balloon and allowed us to do our work in beanbags instead of desks.

Ms. Bonnie Hegg

Ms. Bonnie Hegg

On Valentine’s Day our class made paper heart-shaped baskets by weaving together strips of pink and red construction paper, stapling a handle over the top. We hung the baskets on a wall, and then buzzed around filling them with our hand-made Valentines, one for every classmate.

As I was leaving class that day with my filled basket, Ms. Hegg beckoned me over. “Hey, I need you to do something for me,” she said as she reached under her desk. I thought she was going to ask me to help her with alphabetizing files, a task I loved.

Instead she handed me an identical Valentine basket, filled with the paper Valentines. “This is Timmy’s,” she said, referring to one of my classmates. “I need you to hold onto it for him.” “But why?” I asked, puzzled. “He’s not allowed to have these because of his religion,” she said, not explaining further. I didn’t understand, but I trusted Ms. Hegg and took the basket. “Your heart has room for it, Chandra,” she said.



When I got home I sat on my bed and emptied my own basket, spreading out all the sweet Valentines from my classmates. Then I emptied Timmy’s out. The cards were virtually identical to mine. I felt deeply troubled. What kind of God didn’t allow someone to be loved and get a Valentine? If all the kids loved Timmy as much as me, why couldn’t he be told that? I felt sad and confused, and pushed the basket under my bed so I didn’t have to explain to my mother.

But I took my assignment seriously and tried to “hold the love” in my heart for Timothy. Whenever I saw him I thought to myself, “You are loved,” and pictured all those Valentine cards.

Me in kindergarten. Mom forbade me from wearing my homemade necklace of mussel shells I collected on the beach for picture day, but Ms. Hegg said Go For It!

Me in kindergarten. Mom forbade me from wearing my homemade necklace of mussell shells for picture day, but Ms. Hegg said Go For It!

As I grew up and moved into adulthood, I never forgot this lesson. I discovered that sometimes people don’t know they are loved, and when that happens you have to hold onto it for them, safekeeping it like a paper basket under the bed, until they realize their own wholeness. I learned that, indeed, my heart did have room for all.

Is there someone you know that could use a little reminder that they are loved? A friend, a co-worker, a perfect stranger? Don’t get fancy. Draw a heart on a sheet of paper and give it to them, reminding them that they are loved. I guarantee you’ll feel love when you do it, too. Happy Valentine’s Day!


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