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February 9, 2016

Love for All: a Valentine’s Day Challenge.

author's photo: Rachel Fernbach (not for re-use)

I’ve come up with a Valentine’s Day challenge, and I want to invite you all to try it with me.

What if we agreed together to resist the enticement of metallic pinks and reds this year—to skip the romantic “table-for-two” vibe—and instead, we just focused on love? Giving it, receiving it and spreading it around in all sorts of inspired and unexpected ways.

Love is a multi-faceted experience that is so much more than pre-packaged candy and flowers.

We can certainly do better than passing out heart-shaped bits and pieces purchased in a shop. Instead, let’s get creative and turn this day into a celebration of friendship, inclusiveness and generosity.

Because to me, that’s what love is all about. Love is sharing. Love is thinking of how someone else might be hurting and finding a way to alleviate that pain. It’s also celebrating the small and big successes of the people around us.

Love is showing up and being present in our relationships, whether it’s a primary partnership, a friend we see once in a while, an office-mate we hardly know or the person who pours our coffee each morning.

Love is a practice. It’s selflessness, kindness, support, caring, acceptance, warmth and appreciation. It’s something we can do for everyone, as if they’re all our sweethearts!

On Valentine’s Day—“the day of love”—let’s act on the wish for all beings to be free from suffering, particularly from the uncomfortable feelings of loneliness, disconnection and under-appreciation.

Here’s what I propose…

If you are part of a “we,” I challenge you to find a night, other than the 14th, for a private date with your lovey-dovey. (Or have a breakfast date. Get creative, people.) Instead of that cozy table for two, why not reserve a spot for three, four or five?

Think of someone who may spend a lot of evenings on their own—maybe it’s a neighbor who lost a spouse. Maybe it’s a friend who hasn’t had good luck with online dating. We all know someone who isn’t paired up. Treat them to happy-hour, dinner, trivia night or karaoke—show them that their presence is important by including them in your family. Show them that they’re not alone.

If you are a “just me” this year, I have a challenge for you, too—throw a party, and bring the love straight to your front step! Host a potluck dinner and invite a few unrelated people. Meeting new folks opens doors—help your friends to expand their networks and meet someone they otherwise wouldn’t.

If you’re not sure how to pull together an unusual bunch of folks, try this recipe: one sibling, one childhood friend, one ex-coworker and one stranger whose photos you’ve been liking on Instagram. (Or, if a stranger from the internet is too far out there, substitute with one person you met at a party that you’d love to see again.)

Don’t want to wash dishes? Meet out at a bar or coffee-shop instead of making a meal—do anything, just do it all together in the spirit of building community.

Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to experiment with generosity, and it doesn’t have to be in response to being single or coupled. Here are a few of my ideas—and I’d love to hear yours! Please share in the comments below!

1. Wake up early and make breakfast for your housemate.

2. Order an Uber for a friend, so they can skip the evening subway commute.

3. Send a gift-card to your child’s teacher, or make a purchase for their classroom

4. Let your child sleep in, and drive them to school with a breakfast stop along the way.

5. At yoga class, pay for the person in line behind you.

6. Write a note to your neighbor, telling them that you’ll shovel their walk next time it snows

7. Send an emoji-laden text to your mom, telling her how much you love her. Then call her and tell her again.

8. Take your dog for an extra-long stroll, and let him pause and sniff as much as he’d like, without rush.

9. If you notice someone who is clearly in a hurry, offer them your space in line.

10. Find out which causes are important to someone you care about, and make a donation in their honor.

11. Leave a 100% tip for your barista.

12. Volunteer for the afternoon at a local non-profit. (Call ahead to see how you could be of service.)

13. Offer a few hours of babysitting to new parents who haven’t yet had much alone time.

14. Write an unexpected love note to somebody you admire.

Now that I think about it, my Valentine’s challenge really boils down to this: Do something nice for someone else, for no reason other than to make them feel good.

What are all the endless ways to make others feel loved?

Be creative, be original, be surprising—and above all, enjoy focusing on kindness.

Take pleasure in giving freely, and I’m sure that all hearts involved will beat more fully than imaginable.

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Author: Rachel Fernbach 

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Author’s own.

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