Tired of the pressure to make it romantic? Honor the theme of love with this soul-building idea.
Are your heart garlands hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Valentine and his chocolates will soon be there?
I’ve often spent Valentine’s Day trying to plan and execute a wonderful dinner for my spouse, with the hopes that we will somehow have the perfect, most bonding date to celebrate our love.
But this year, I want to take the pressure off myself because at the end of the day, all of my efforts at loving my spouse are often more focused on me somehow. Instead, I want to try reaching out to someone new this Valentine’s Day—and not in a romantic way. Instead of spending all my energy planning the perfect gift or date for the people I love, I want to direct it towards people who may be forgotten.
My goal is to make this St. Valentine’s Day less about myself, and more about others. As it has happened so often before in my life, when I am more truly and fully focused on someone else (especially someone who can’t repay me or give me anything in return), this other-focus may ends up leaving me more fulfilled and content than anything else I could have done.
If this sounds like something you would like to try, here are a few ideas…
Visit centers in your neighborhood
Are there retirement homes or rehabilitation centers near you that are allowing visitors? You may be surprised at how many are open to outside guests, even with pandemic concerns. Just spending a few minutes with someone, maybe bringing along a card or little chocolate, is a good way to start. If you have kids, find out if you can bring them along, and make it a family trip. If they associate Valentine’s Day with loving the vulnerable, what a lifelong gift you are giving them!
Can you write a letter to a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while? Do you have an older relative who can’t get around much? A relative who is currently incarcerated? A letter or a phone call to say hi means a lot, especially if you aren’t able to visit many people independently.
Send a card to a priest or religious
Does your parish priest or a religious sister you know have an address you can mail a card to? The life of a parish priest in 21st-century America can be quite lonely. Try sending a note thanking your priest for his sacrifice for your parish, and for bringing you the sacraments.
Reach out to someone who’s touched your heart
Has anyone’s pain touched your heart recently? Maybe it was a coworker’s story of loss, a neighbor’s visible unhappiness, or a story online highlighting the pain of a certain mental illness or disease. Think about a way to reach out to the person you know struggling with that pain.
Different things, people, and/or causes touch us at different times, and it is sometimes a way the Holy Spirit works to help us learn to reach out of ourselves. Consider a way to act, and then act. Even if you’re unsure or it is awkward, it is always better to act than to turn away or ignore what is pulling on your heart.
Even if you don’t feel like you helped someone, or your help is blatantly rejected and unappreciated, you grow from reaching out. And alternately, when you don’t act, you atrophy. Act and grow. Love and grow.
If there’s one thing St. Valentine teaches us, it is that true love is painful and challenging—not comfortable and reassuring. Valentine died rather than betray Love. Let’s die to ourselves in imitation of him, and in imitation of Love Himself. St. Valentine, pray for us!