If you are a Midwesterner, someone may have reminded you about Sweetest Day this past Saturday. Even if you don’t come from the heartland of the United States, you might know something about this date that happens on the third Saturday of October.
I have heard more than a few people suggest that card companies created the day to get people to come in and buy special cards for those they love. Without checking, we might think that sounded possible or even probable.
The truth about the origin of the day has more significance attached than a gimmick by card companies to attract customers. The real origin provides an example of thoughtfulness with no motive attached except to bless others.
Midwesterners may know more about the day because its origins began in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1922, a Cleveland man and a candy store employee felt the city’s orphans, and shut-ins were being overlooked and neglected. To give them a sense they were not forgotten and cared for, he distributed small gifts and candy to those who had fallen on hard times, with the help of his friends and neighbors.
When other Clevelanders heard about it, many of them began to follow suit and the celebration became known as “Sweetest Day”. On the first designated Sweetest Day, a movie star of the day, Ann Pennington, presented 2,200 Cleveland newspaper boys with boxes of candy to express gratitude for the service they provided for the public. Another movie star, Theda Bera, distributed 10,000 boxes of candy to people in Cleveland hospitals.
The tradition continued for some time providing an opportunity to reach out to those not often thought about, those who were not doing well, and those in parts of society that were often overlooked in order to show care and bring happiness.
Over time, what began in this way and was largely a more regional observance, began to be associated with more romantic themes and largely focused on giving small presents, such as cards, candy, and flowers to family, friends, and lovers.
For the past 53 years, I have been blessed to receive red roses on Sweetest Day from the most thoughtful man I know. A few years after he began this tradition, I was blessed to become his wife. It is one of many tangible reminders of his thoughtfulness that continues to the present.
As I reflect on the origin of the celebration, it reminds me that the initial purpose was really an altruistic expression of care for so many that were less fortunate during a very difficult economic time. It could be easy to criticize the choice of the gifts. Why give candy when these same persons would have had need of so many other things? It was something they did not require and would not have access to because it would have been such a luxury.
Perhaps that was why it was such fun for those who received these gifts. For a few moments in time, they may have felt special. On that day, they felt remembered not for what they did not have as much as for what someone wanted to bless them with.
You may not be a fan of this celebration, but before you discount it consider ways you might demonstrate the original intent of the day. Beyond family, friends, and lovers, is there someone else the Lord would want you to show care and thoughtfulness to?
It is far too easy to be caught up in our own lives, schedules, and priorities and never observe those in our midst who may be going through a difficult time.
We can and should pray for them, but perhaps there is some tangible thing the Lord might bring to mind that can bring happiness to a life for no other reason than to bless them.
That thoughtfulness would most certainly be what Jesus showed us.