I used to really look forward to Valentine's Day in my younger years.
When I was a child, I carefully selected each valentine to give to my friends. I was so excited to open all of the little envelopes that we each received in class and couldn't wait to run home and show my mother. As a teen, I was thrilled to receive candy or a flower from a boy that I liked or even more so from a secret admirer.
As a young woman, I was a sucker for candle-lit dinners, a bottle of wine and heart-shaped, sparkling jewelry.
When I became a mother, the best valentines were the ones that my children made for me. Whether it was just a simple note scribbled on a piece of paper or a more elaborate one decorated with buttons and glitter, the heartfelt message conveyed to me by my children were more valuable than any diamond bracelet ever could be. I have most of them tucked away in a bin filled with all of my "treasures."
My kids are grown so there won't be any handmade expressions of their love coming my way anymore; although I would love it if they still did.
My husband never was the romantic, gift-giving type and I am OK with that. He shows his love for me every day just by putting up with me and working hard for his family. And let me tell you, nothing says "I love you" like seeing your husband wash dishes while doing the laundry AND making dinner for you.
I am fortunate to have many people in my life who show their love for me in different ways. My mother is always there to help out in a pinch or to surprise me with dinner when I come home from a busy day at work.
I have many friends that I can laugh with and cry with and who are always there to offer companionship, comfort or support whenever I need them, day or night.
Most of us have people in our lives to love and who love us in return. But sadly, this is not the case for everyone.
If we take a look around I am quite certain that we can easily identify people who, for one reason or another, live a life of loneliness and sadness, and believe it or not, Valentine's Day can actually be quite depressing for them.
They are everywhere: that painfully shy, awkward or outcast child in school; the elderly or sickly neighbor; the co-worker who struggles just to make it through the day; the waitress who serves your food with a smile while fighting back the tears.
Really stop and look around you. There are more of them than you think.
This year for Valentine's Day, I would like to challenge you (along with myself) to show some love to your fellow man by reaching out to someone you wouldn't ordinarily think of and making them your "Valentine".
Gather up the kids and make some homemade cards to give to elderly neighbors and spend some time with them. Invite someone over for coffee and bake some heart shaped cookies which you then deliver to others.
Take someone out to lunch or to a movie. Send flowers to someone you barely know. Write letters of encouragement to those who really need it. Invite someone new to sit at your lunch table.
Offer to help someone with a task. Give that waitress a really nice tip and tell her what a great job she does.
There are countless ways to show someone you care about and appreciate them. Get creative!
You will brighten someone's day and give yourself a lift too.