This is my favorite Valentine’s Day story and probably one of my best stories. I’ve only shared it with 2-3 of my closest friends and also a room full of strangers in a Dale Carnegie course.
When I told the story in the Dale Carnegie course, the comment from my instructor was that I delivered it as if it happened recently. But what he didn’t know, it happened over 10 years ago while I was working as a volunteer administrative assistant. Some stories remain quite fresh.
The story is now 15+ years fresh and will remain that way.
It was Valentine’s Day in Detroit Michigan. Fr. Hardon was invited to a dinner downstairs in the school auditorium. It was a thank you dinner for volunteers – I forget the specific volunteers the event was honoring. But it was a specific group of church volunteers. My main objective was to make sure Father Hardon had a good meal by attending this event and make sure his ride would pick him up and drive him to the rectory across town.
Denise: “You should go to the dinner, Father Hardon.”
Fr. Hardon: “I will go only if you go.”
“But Father Hardon, I wasn’t invited.”
Father Hardon: “Come as my guest.”
I absolutely didn’t want to go. I was dressed in my worst pair of jeans. They weren’t merely faded. They had bleach stains from when I became a bit overzealous with my cleaning supplies. My shirt wasn’t the best and I was wearing my clunky (but still favorite) Doc Martens. Admittedly, this is probably what I’d still wear today but certainly never to a fancy dinner I was going to crash.
With great reluctance, I agreed to go.
I remember walking down that long hallway to the auditorium with Father Hardon. I felt very small.
They welcomed him eagerly and ushered him to a table where his seat was reserved. I found a spot on the other side of the room and tried to be as invisible as possible. The food was delicious – I was grateful for a good meal. Few people talked to me and I felt so embarrassed for looking so unkempt and for coming as an uninvited guest.
I got up and walked toward Father Hardon, who was also walking toward me. He was carrying a chocolate rose – which had been a centerpiece at his table.
In front of everyone – he handed the chocolate rose to me.
I smiled and thanked him.
A woman watching the exchange grabbed another chocolate rose and handed it to Father Hardon.
Woman: “Here you go, Father Hardon.”
The look in Father Hardon’s eyes – the entire scene – is burned in my memory and words fail to describe it well.
He smiled and handed me the second chocolate rose.
We walked out of that auditorium together. Me in my ugly pair of blue jeans and Father Hardon with a heart of gold.
I went to 4 different stores tonight trying to find a chocolate rose to match the story. I’m not sure if they make them anymore or if they were all sold out. Most of the aisles were cleaned out of chocolates so I settled for a small mini rose house plant.