Happy Valentine’s Day Chinatown!

by Rev. Norman Fong

February 11, 2019

norman fong

This coming Thursday Feb. 14th is Valentine’s Day. It’s a big deal for many people who are “in love” or dating. Many decades ago, it was the day I started dating my wife and we got married in Hong Kong later that year. In America and around the world, over 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are given or sent out (that’s more than any other day except for Christmas).

valentines day

Did you know that in the Catholic Church, they celebrate a real Saint Valentine? There are many stories of different Valentine Priests who were actually heroes of “Love” who were made “Saints” in the church. One written story is about Saint Valentine of Rome who was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers, who were forbidden to marry. He was imprisoned also for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his judge, and before his execution he wrote her a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell. Through the centuries, and mixed with popular culture, those Valentine’s Day cards – became more focused on romantic love.

heart lanterns

So Today, I’d like to write to you about one of my old favorite books on love written by C. S. Lewis entitled: “The Four Loves”. Lewis writes about the four distinct types of love that the Greeks used different words for: (Of course, I will over-simplify those words so it’s easier for us to get the message quickly).

(1) “Storge” Greek: στοργή is FAMILY LOVE
An example is the natural love and affection of a parent for their child.

(2) “Philia” Greek: φιλία IS FRIENDSHIP LOVE
An example: the love between friends as close as siblings in strength and duration. It is different from storge natural love for family as it is freely chosen between people who share common values, interests…

(3) “Eros” Greek: ἔρως is “Romantic” LOVE
An example: “Being in love” but mixed often with that “Venus” (physical needs love)

(4) “Agape” Greek: ἀγάπη IS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
An example: In church we call it God’s Love. Totally unselfish.

I like the FOUR LOVES and the use of four different words to describe each type of love. When someone you hardly know says “I LOVE YOU”, is that really love? It’s different than when a MOM says “I LOVE YOU” to their child. Growing up as a Chinatown kid, I never heard my parents say “I LOVE YOU” because the Chinese (old generation) didn’t use words to express their love. Chinese style is more “OBLIGATIONAL” love. You are expected to do certain things and yet, I knew they loved each other so much – just not through words. It’s like when you’re sick, your mom or grandma or dad cooks you soup. It’s like your parents working so hard every day so that you can go to school and if lucky, make it through college. It’s like your mom waking up early just to give you lunch for school or work.

For me, all Human Love, whether Storge (Family), Philia (Friendship), Eros (romantic) needs, and AGAPE (unconditional/divine) Love make relationships work. Human Love depends on a need based reciprocity: “You Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours.” Unconditional Love (Agape) does not depend on reciprocity. You show love without expecting anything in return. I would like to highlight a Fifth Love for your consideration – “Love for Community.” The Fifth Love I have learned by working in Chinatown and serving Chinatown for so many decades. I have also seen it in the seniors, youth and families I get to work with in Chinatown and all the volunteers that come to help Chinatown. There are so many people who work for Chinatown non-profits too like On Lok, Self-Help for the Elderly, Cameron House, CYC, CCCC, Chinatown CDC… (too many to list). They Love the Community! Think about the kind of love you want to share with the world. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY CHINATOWN!

heart chinatown

rose chinatown

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on February 10, 2019

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