February is unique among the other months of the year because it brings us the opportunity to celebrate three different, but related, kinds of love: the love for ourselves; romantic love; and the love for something greater than ourselves.
The observance of Rosa Park Day (also referred to as the Day of Courage) on February 4th is a good example of how the love for oneself can expand into the love for others.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa, an African-American seamstress, was travelling in a Montgomery City bus when the driver asked her to vacate her seat for a white man, standard practice during the racial segregation on buses at the time. She refused to leave her seat on the grounds of fairness, freedom and equality. (As she said later, “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”) The driver called the police, and Rosa was arrested and convicted of violating the segregation laws, known as "Jim Crow" laws. From the day she was convicted, Martin Luther King, Jr and other civil rights activists, boycotted the Montgomery bus system for 381 days until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation law was unconstitutional and that buses should be integrated.
Rosa Parks’ story reminds us that when you love yourself and feel secure in yourself, you will have the courage to stand up for your own dignity and you will have plenty of love and compassion to give to others.
Romantic love is celebrated every February 14th with Valentine’s Day rituals (such as buying flowers and exchanging romantic cards) that emphasize romantic love between couples, but they also honor and promote love itself. We celebrate love because we know how important it is to our life, to our health and well-being, to our global connection with the rest of our human family, and to our sense of identity and sense of place first formed in relationships that are with us from the womb to the tomb. As Thomas Merton wrote, “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another.”
February is, also, when Black History Month is celebrated to share the stories that pay tribute to generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society. The observance first began in 1926 as “Negro History Week” and then was expanded into a full month in 1976, during the nation’s bicentennial, by President Gerald Ford who urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Celebrants can find the month of February a busy one with many different kinds of rituals and ceremonies to lovingly present. A common, and important, feature of such events is story-telling. Whenever we share stories about an individual, or an entire community, they become more vivid and accessible to everyone. We bring their written history to life, giving character to the facts, emotions to the events, and humanity to the heroes. And we give others a chance to recognize our shared human condition and to foster a love that is greater than ourselves.
As Celebrants around the globe create rites, rituals and celebrations of life’s important milestones, they are serving a ministry of presence. Each gathering is a voyage of discovery, creativity and compassion and a huge affirmation that life needs us and wants us to be our best selves. To sense and trust this primeval yearning opens a deep spring of trust in our hearts that life will be faithful to us, blessing us and giving us grace to grow in order to serve; this is the joy and the promise of being a Celebrant.
Elaine Voci is a life coach in private practice in Carmel, IN and a graduate of the Celebrant Foundation & Institute . Elaine is the Editor of the Celebrant Blog for the Celebrant Foundation & Institute.
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