By Craig and Marc Kielburger

 

More than any day on the calendar, Feb. 14 creates a bitter division between two groups: happily in love couples, and singles who would substitute “annoying greeting-card holiday” for “happily in love.”

So, this week, we thought we would attempt to find some common ground on Valentine’s Day by answering a question: Do we really need to dedicate a day to love?

The answer, we believe, is yes. But we’re arguing for a day on which we all bring a bit more love to the world in general, especially for those who need it most. (For how-to tips, check out our Valentine’s Day guide for gift ideas that give back.)

In our family, Feb. 14 is the anniversary of our dear Grandma Mimi’s birthday. Before she passed, we would spend Valentine’s Day with her, bearing flowers. We would escort her to the hairdresser, or provide some other treat to show our love.

Mimi’s challenges with Alzheimer’s meant that our last few years of visits took place in her retirement home. It’s a very nice spot with kind and dedicated staff, but it can still be a sad place. Several of the residents mistake us for their grandkids, and sigh when they learn we’re not.

Mother Teresa once said the most terrible poverty in the world is loneliness. It’s also said that February is the loneliest month, in the midst of the dark winter and with a special day dedicated to extolling the wonders of coupledom. If you’re not paired off, it’s easy to feel left out.

We don’t say this to be a downer on Valentine’s Day, but to spark a mini-movement that looks beyond romantic love. If you have it, awesome: Show your love to your dearest in the most creative and meaningful ways you can (ideally with less material stuff and more love notes). But maybe we can each take a moment to “spread the love” by bringing some kindness and companionship to someone who needs it.

We may know someone who has lost a loved one over the past year, for whom today is especially lonely. Family members, friends or neighbors who live alone may appreciate a phone call, a lunch date or a batch of muffins, just to know that they’re noticed and cared for, that they’re not alone. Even a simple smile and hello to someone you pass on the street would add warmth to a cold winter’s day.

Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to reach beyond our regular circles of love and to make someone’s day by letting them know we’re thinking of them.