Love is in the air. Valentine’s Day is coming up and stores have shelves stocked full of flowers and chocolate and wine and other little ways to love one another. It’s the time of year we focus on romance and feelings and sure it’s largely for commercial purposes, but I’m here for it. Not because I want a heart-shaped gift or a coupon for a free back-rub (JK I totally want that). No. I’m not a Valentine’s Day grinch because I think the world could use a little more love any day of the year.
Love isn’t always romance and chocolate. I like to see Valentine’s Day as a nice reminder for me to love the people around me a little better. To stop my internal focus and turn it to someone else for a minute. But there’s no reason to limit this to one day or one person.
5 ways to love one another
When we love one another with authenticity, it doesn’t take a grand gesture or a dozen roses. More often, it’s the little things that really send the message.
1 – Ask
Have you ever seen someone’s facial expression relax completely when you asked, what can I do to make today better for you? I have. It’s a pretty amazing thing to see the realization that someone wants to improve THEIR day. The funny thing is, most of us don’t know how to answer this question. We say, oh no I’m fine or wow thanks but I can’t think of anything. But some of us say, you know what? Yes, I could really use a hand.
Either way, asking and then following through with help is a great way to show someone they aren’t alone in their messy day. Isn’t that what we all want?
2 – Anticipate
Along the same lines, we can show love by anticipating a need and meeting it early. Brands do this and it’s why we love them. Have you noticed the profound lack of trash in a Disney Park? The story goes that Walt Disney himself bought a hot dog on Main Street, U.S.A., and started walking while taking bites. When he finished, he knew just where and when Guests would need a trash can.
Anticipating needs isn’t the same as mind-reading and it’s nothing any of us should expect. But when someone rounds the corner with an extra cup of coffee or turns in work before being asked, it goes a long way. Longer than you might think.
3 – Pay Attention
This is a tough one for so many of who us stare at a screen all day or work from home. But when we do get face-time with the people in our lives, whether it’s a spouse or a child or even the boss, eye-contact* matters. Stop touching the thing you were touching, look up, pay attention and be an active listener. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, move out of your moment and into their moment.
We all know a really great listener. He or she is one who makes you feel like all your ideas are brilliant. And the cool thing is, this isn’t a talent. This is actually something anyone can do to show love. Listening is an art and I’m definitely guilty of mm-hmmm-ing my way through a conversation only to have no idea what I just heard. Paying attention shows love and respect. Period.
*Unless you’re in a battle of wills with a toddler. You can’t make eye-contact then.
4 – Give
We can’t meet every need, but when we can, why not do it? Donate $10 to that fundraiser you just scrolled past. Volunteer in your community. Give a coworker their favorite treat. Support a cause your spouse cares about.
It’s not about what we get in return. But inevitably when we help others, our buckets fill as well. It’s a win all around. Giving grows too. I think of the love fern in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days (such a sweet movie). It’s a plant that started out as part of the joke and becomes and integral part of the movie. The more they cared for each other and the plant, the more it grew and thrived. Neither of them cared about the plant at the beginning, but as they grew and both cared for it, the fern became part of their mutual story.
5 – Communicate
One of the coolest things I’ve learned about love is how it is never one-sided. You could do all of the things in this post, but if you never actually open up yourself to anyone, it’s not love. It’s merely an act of service. And while service can still be beneficial, love is different.
It’s when we share our own hearts and trust another with our personalities that real love happens. Respect, camaraderie, admiration. All of these things can happen in and outside a romantic relationship. Trusting others with your true self actually shows love. It shows them that you feel confident in their ability to love you back.
It’s why we can be weird with our siblings or tell fart jokes with the kids at the dinner table. Or cry on our spouse’s shoulder. Silly and comforting and sweet. It’s also vulnerable and can be hard for some of us. So share what you can, when you can with a few people and let them love you too.
One of the most famous commands of the Bible is to love one another. I think it’s in there because sometimes we just need reminding. Life gets busy and we forget to look up. The beautiful thing about love is the more we give, the more we get.
So enjoy your Valentine’s Day plans. Wear your nice clothes and go out or get take out and watch a movie. And then on the 15th and the 16th and beyond, love one another again and again and again.
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