Do you have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day? I’ve always been at least a bit conflicted about it. I’m all for love, and showing people that you love them, but celebrating a single day when that’s expected is problematic for me in a couple of ways:
- It leaves too many people feeling left out—and probably many of the people who most need to know they’re cared for.
- What about the other 364 days of the year (365 days in a leap year)?
Rather than celebrate Valentine’s Day, I’d prefer to fill the world with random acts of kindness every day of the year—kindness both toward the people we love and toward total strangers. Here are some ideas:
- Keep a few extra dollars in your pocket at all times, and hand them out liberally to the homeless. Stop thinking you’re enabling people or worrying that the recipients might spend those dollars in ways you disapprove. The bottom line is that they need the money more than you do, and perhaps having it can improve their lives incrementally regardless how they spend it. If it gives them just an extra bit of dignity, that’s money well spent.
Another help for the homeless–an idea stolen from a friend: Pack and carry small bags of essentials (“bags of useful things,” as my friend calls them) to give away. Include items such as kleenex, duct tape, shoelaces, tube socks, safety pins, hand sanitizer. Pack them up in resealable plastic bags, and voilá.
- Put coins in someone else’s parking meter. (Or, if your meters are controlled centrally at a pay station, top off someone else’s meter if you see that it has expired.)
- Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk, or mow your neighbor’s lawn—especially if you have neighbors who are elderly, frail or disabled.
- Leave your newspaper or an interesting book you’ve finished on the train or bus. If you’re leaving a book, add a sticky note that says “Take me home–I’m a great read!”
- Always cut people some slack. Remember that you don’t know what’s going on in their lives.
- Whenever someone makes a mistake at work, put it in perspective with this question: “Did anyone die?”
- Say something nice to the custodian, the cashier, the teacher, the [fill in the blank here].
If you still want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, here are some things I prefer even over chocolate and flowers (and believe me, I love chocolate and flowers—especially very dark chocolate…with coconut…or ginger…or orange…or…):
- Time spent with you (a movie, a dinner, a cup of coffee or tea while we sit at the table talking, with mobile phones turned off)
- Something you made by hand
- A promise fulfilled
- My house cleaned for me
And here are a couple of random Valentine’s Day facts I stumbled across this week:
- Bing tracks and reports the number and topics of searches performed leading up to Valentine’s Day, and what terms are searched most frequently when. Top search terms are no surprise, including candy, chocolates, jewelry, cards, and gifts. I was saddened to find that “love poem” didn’t make the list.
- One in five Americans who celebrate Valentine’s Day say they will buy gifts for their pets (2015 data from the National Retail Federation).