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The Stapler

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 
-1 Corinthians 13:13

The pandemic economy had hit them harder than expected. Jane was a sous chef at an upscale restaurant. She was on track to being promoted to executive chef. Bill was in middle management at a major clothing retail chain. When both businesses closed in year one of the pandemic, they had just purchased their first home and the twins had just started middle school. Suddenly, they were both without jobs and without a backup plan. Jane blamed herself because she was so focused on her career that she didn’t have a contingency plan. The loans they took out for her to go to culinary school were their biggest expense besides their new mortgage. Before the pandemic, they could make ends meet. Today, they were sinking. 

Jane sat in bed looking out over their backyard. Bill had left before she woke. He usually greeted her on Valentine’s Day with breakfast in bed. She would end the day with his favorite meal. His absence caused her to worry and wonder if they’d make it through this setback. Her parents divorced because of finances. Was she next?

Today was their favorite holiday and they always took it as a vacation day. Even this year, they took a break from their jobs at Walmart. They met on Valentine’s Day, Bill’s first day at Minton Middle School. Bill and his military family had just moved to the neighborhood. 

Jane sat behind him in class. She watched him quietly enter the room and sit at his new desk while avoiding eye contact with anyone. She looked over at Jason. Without even asking, she knew that Jason had introduced himself to Bill on the way to school that morning. Jason always robbed the new people of their lunch and their dignity on day one.  Everyone was afraid of Jason, except her. Jason’s dad worked for her dad; so, he never bothered her. After seeing the look on Bill’s face, she decided to cash in on her some of her social capital. 

During lunch, Jane shared her lunch with Bill. When Jason saw this, he came up to them and tried to start something. Jane shut him down quickly. “Jason, if I were you, I’d make sure your dad has a job tomorrow. Mess with Bill and you mess with me.” 

That did the trick. Jane knew that Jason would do something subtle to retaliate that couldn’t be tied to him, but she didn’t care. There was just something about Bill that she liked. He was different. Four years later, they were inseparable. Then, Bill’s dad got a new assignment, which meant his family had to move. They promised to keep in touch but never did. Two years later, when Jane walked into her orientation at USC, she saw the back of his head and immediately knew that it was him. They’d been together ever since that day. 

Now, Jane sat wondering if they could get through this. She was lost in thoughts when Bill returned. When she heard the pots banging, she perked up and realized that he was cooking her breakfast. She waited patiently until he came into their room with the tray. In addition to the breakfast, there was a gift box. She realized that she’d not gotten him anything. 

“I thought we weren’t doing gifts this year.”

“I know but I’d already ordered this before we decided. Besides, you are all the gift I need.”

Jane put the tray he’d placed on her lap on the nightstand and reached over to give him a teary-eyed hug and kiss. She felt like the luckiest woman in the world. 

“Open it.”

When Jane opened the box, even more tears came. 

“How did you find this?”

“I asked your mom and scoured the internet until I found it.”

Jane couldn’t believe it. Inside the box was a pink stapler, an exact replica of the one that Jason stole the day she stood up to him for Bill. 

Prompt for Thought: What is your favorite memory of Valentine’s Day? If you don’t have one, what is your favorite act of random love or kindness?

Prayer for the Journey: Dear God, on this day dedicated to love, we thank you for your unfailing, immeasurable love. Thank you for your Son, Jesus, the ultimate gift of love. God, please remind us that of all the things that remain, the greatest is love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.