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A Valentine's day lesson for a down economy

Two kids rally around their jobless father in a down economy – and shine a light on true love and create a Valentine's day lesson.

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I know a father who wants to come up with some kind of Valentine gift for his two children – a daughter and a son. Not as a bribe, not as an opportunistic stimulus for more affection, but as a heartfelt thank-you for his kids' concern and thoughtfulness.

With no job and a lot of financial anxiety, this dad had a rough year. But his children rallied around him, showing their old man the sustaining power of self-sacrificing love – illustrating the authentic gratitude that should lie at the heart of Valentine's Day.

The dad I have in mind has not made his kids painfully aware of his financial predicament. But they picked up on his challenges: Quietly, conspiratorially, they became aware of his struggles – and his efforts to keep difficulties from taking up lodging at home.

On his own, the son canceled the cable-TV package, explaining that the really juicy cable stuff didn't show well on their pint-sized low-def TV screen.

To save even more money, the son also adjusted the family's cellphone package. He and his sister avoid using the daytime minutes that could be crucial to their father, who holds out hope for job calls and needs "peak" minutes to make phone inquiries about work prospects. The kids don't text. They e-mail from school computers. They phone at hours when their minutes are free.

The daughter, away at college, is frugal. While most students fly home or drive their own cars, she looks for rides on the school's ride board. Her father worries: Is it safe to ride with a stranger?

At Christmastime, his daughter reported that a sorority type endowed with a late-model convertible (upholstered in leather, and sporting mag wheels and a knockout sound system) had suggested that she pay for gas and tolls in return for a ride.

Taken aback, the daughter summoned a reply that went something like, "Frankly, my dear, I'd rather take a Greyhound."

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