Share the Love: Caring for your Community this Season

I would like to be able to tell you that my fondness for Valentine’s Day stems from a devotion to the third century Roman martyr, St. Valentine, or even that it comes from my commitment to keeping romance alive in a marriage. But while the latter commitment is true in as much as my marriage is the leading source of love and joy in my life and I thoroughly enjoy celebrating that love, I don’t feel particularly called to do that honoring on Valentine’s Day. And, well, so little is known about St. Valentine, and there are many other saints that I connect to on a deeply personal level, that it is hard for me to summon any special commitment to this singular saint.

But fondness for Valentine’s Day I do have, and it’s mainly because — dare I admit this?! — I just love the way red and pink look together. Is that the worst reason to appreciate a holiday?! Maybe. But it’s true, and I spend the month of February wearing as much pink on red as I can, putting pink and red sprinkles on everything I bake, and decking our house in an array of pink and red garlands, candles, and throw blankets.

That being said, I started feeling self-conscious a few years ago about my limited relationship to Valentine’s Day, and so I began to think of ways that I could expand my celebration of the day and month from simply being a red and pink fest to something more. I landed on devoting the four weeks of February to “sharing the love” and finding different ways to care for my community throughout what often feels to me like the coldest and darkest days of winter (even if science tells me otherwise). It has turned out to make me love the holiday all the more.

Here are some of my ideas for sharing the love this Valentine’s Day (and Valentine’s month):

Send a card to an elderly or home bound acquaintance

I don’t think that I will ever lose the sense of thrill in opening my mailbox and seeing a handwritten address signifying a personal card or letter. I imagine that folks who have limited contact with the outside world, due to chronic illness, difficulty getting out or other circumstances, feel the same, and so sending snail mail is such a nice way to show elderly and home bound acquaintances that you care. On top of this, reaching out via the good old fashioned U.S. Postal System is a relatively easy thing to do. I keep a stack of cards (like this one and this one) readily available, and my family’s return address labels and sheets of stamp in the drawer of our entry way mail table, and both of these habits keep sending cards quick and easy.

Deliver a meal

I’m in the phase of life when many of my friends are having babies and more babies, and so I’m in the routine of doubling my family’s dinner fairly frequently and delivering half of it to various families I know and love. This month, I’m thinking outside the box and considering who else in my life might appreciate a night off from cooking, perhaps a family who recently moved, someone who is grieving a loss, or even just a friend whom I know to be overwhelmed at the moment. Many times, a mutual acquaintance will have created a MealTrain to make signing up for a date and coordinating logistics easy, but if not, I can simply reach out to the friend and ask them to pick a date, name a time, and alert me of any dietary preferences. This is a great way to share the love… and my family benefits, too, because I always make dessert on meal delivery nights (and more of a side dish than microwaved green beans from the freezer, which is my usual go-to)!

Pick up the phone

It could be generational, but I find that most of my friends and I rarely speak on the phone — even long distance friends! — and if we do want to talk, it always requires a long, drawn-out preamble of texts about availability, ideal scheduling and more. It’s such an effort to coordinate a single phone or video call that I end up avoiding mentioning to friends that I’d love to catch up. I just can’t handle the ordeal of scheduling! But, there is nothing like a heart-to-heart conversation to show care and to connect on a deeper level, and so I decided recently to stop letting the pattern of “we need to schedule a call” prevent me from reaching out to my friends. I don’t fear a game of phone tag, so whenever I have a few free minutes this month, I’m calling an old friend or acquaintance to say hi. More often than not, my people answer, and we talk for as long as one of us has available, usually twenty minutes or so. It has been good for my friendships and good for my soul!

Say a prayer

Last, but certainly not least, I’m sharing the love by praying for my friends and family members in an especially concerted way this month. Before praying the rosary, I call to mind the intentions of my loved ones; as I write in my journal, I name the ways I long for God’s blessing in my the lives of my nearest and dearest; and when I light a candle, I lift up the name of someone who could use an extra glimmer of light in their life.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! May you and all of yours feel the love this month (and wear some pink and red for me, would you?!).

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