My husband, Doug, and I have the good fortune of having a young person in our lives. Aaron is the 7-year old son of our daughter’s boyfriend, and we’ve taken him under our wings with much joy and affection.

One of the things Aaron loves to do when he visits our house is play pool with Doug. We have a short cue stick that Aaron uses – it’s “his” stick – and Doug is teaching him the proper way to play the game. They’ve worked on hand placement, cue stick holding, rules of the game and terminology. Aaron will tell you, “I won from Doug one time because he scratched on the eight ball.”

Last week Aaron created a homemade birthday card for Doug, complete with a drawing of our pool table and a picture of Doug wearing a shirt with a deer on it. (Makes me smile to even type that!) You’ll notice that the pool table is surrounded by many hearts.

As Doug opened the envelope containing Aaron’s card, the sweet little boy covered his face with both hands and said, “Don’t see all the hearts,” suddenly embarrassed by the fact that he was expressing affection toward Doug.

Doug said, “I like the hearts” and I added, “You don’t have to be embarrassed, Aaron. Doug really likes you too.”

When Doug confirmed, “I do,” Aaron dropped his hands from his face. His entire little body relaxed and opened, softening into a space of safety and acceptance for his kind gesture. All those hearts!!!

Having a seven year old boy express, through his drawing, the depth of his admiration for Doug was such a sweet and selfless gift. And as if all those hearts weren’t generous enough, Aaron also included a nickel from his own piggy bank, taped to the side of the card. What a little treasure Aaron is to us.

How often do we miss the opportunity to express our love and affection for someone because we are embarrassed to show our hearts? We hold back out of fear and habit, resisting the vulnerability of sharing freely. Yet when we take the risk and let our feelings be known, both parties benefit. There is validation that we are here for each other, that we care and we are making a difference in someone’s day, week, life!

When we allow ourselves to generously express our love and appreciation, we are taking the time to validate to someone that they matter. I can’t imagine a greater gift.

So draw hearts for your people! Let them know the ways they are special to you. Give them the gift of love and affection and let them see all the hearts!