Friday, February 7, 2014

Love Well: Make this Valentines Day Different

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.
To be perfectly honest, I still have to nail down the habit of writing “2014” and find myself stepping on a pine needle every now and again. I really don’t need a tantalizing box of fancy chocolates or a lavish meal to set me back on my New Year resolution.
So I began to wonder, how can I bring more meaning to a day that has become yet another Hallmark opportunity to show love, affection and commitment through expensive presents and flowers pried open to bloom in the dead of winter? I’m not the scrooge of Valentines Day and I’m happily married but like the holiday season, Valentines Day can bring up feelings of loneliness and abandonment.
Christmas tends to stir something in our better natures. From Good King Wenceslas, via Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and a massive turkey, to this year's Christmas shelters offering hot meals and human company to thousands, charity and volunteering has long been wrapped up in the cultural norms of the festive season.
Why can’t that continue on into Valentines Day—the day reserved for showing others love. It feels good during the holidays when we buy a gift for a needy child or serve a holiday meal at a shelter. So why stop there? According to the 2013 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, the average annual Valentine’s Day spending reached $17.3 billion. That means, the average American spent $133.41 on candies, flowers, dinner, jewelry, etc.
Here are some alternative ways to share your affections with your loved one on Valentines day:
1. Have a Stay-cation. It’s almost like a vacation, but you stay close to home. Make dinner, try that new bottle of wine you’ve been eyeing at the super market, or visit your local park. With the money saved, donate it to a nonprofit. Here is a list of the 2013 top-rated nonprofits:
  • FOCO Café (Feeding Our Community Ourselves), Fort Collins, CO. “This team is focused on providing access to healthy, delicious and sustainable food to all members of our community.”
  •  Widbey Island Nourishes, Whidbey Island, WA. One of the volunteers says this program “…provides highly nutritious, ready-made meals at no cost to food insecure youth on South Whidbey Island. Meals are prepared with love by volunteers using high-quality ingredients, including produce from local farms and fruit gleaned from trees throughout the community.”

2. Rather than buying a bouquet of flowers, donate to a local community garden. Your donation will not only continue to give back for months to come, but also be enjoyed by many others.

3. While still setting aside the day to be with loved ones, take a group trip to a near by food pantry or homeless shelter. It might mean the world to an individual to have one hug on Valentines Day from a kind heart. 

4. Be a good neighbor. You may discover that a senior living near by needs a lift to the doctor or help getting groceries. In fact, here is one organization that matches drivers with senior riders: 
  • Neighbor Ride, Columbia, MD. This 2013 top-rated organization connects people: “volunteers drive - seniors thrive.” One volunteer summed up the experience this way: “While helping others, I get to meet some wonderful people who often touch my life with joy.”

As the song goes, “Love is something, if you give it away you end up having more”.

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