Valentine’s Day marks the perfect occasion to remind ourselves that each of us, by virtue of being human, has the capacity to give and receive love, regardless of our relationship status. There is a pride that comes in the realization that each of us has the capacity to bring love to those around us, and by virtue of doing so, can make the world a better place. What is more powerful than that? Make that the focus this Valentine’s Day and forget the commercialism targeted to “couples only”. Their bottom line is chocolate heart sales. Our bottom line is real love, in the fullest sense of the word.
Years ago I watched a television lecture on the topic of love by the late professor and author Leo Buscaglia (Felice Leonardo Buscaglia). He told the story of having been the son of Italian immigrants who had 11 children and barely enough money to make ends meet when they came here to America. Their neighbors would have nothing to do with them, calling them “Dago” and ‘Wop”, and saying they were bringing down the real estate value in the neighborhood. Buscaglia was bewildered at the contrast between the people in his little Italian village where everyone prayed the moment he even got a head cold and had a “festa” when he recuperated—to an environment where no one even said ‘hello” or greeted them. What he learned, however, from his close-knit Italian family, and later from his cross cultural studies on spirituality, was the potential of kindness, warmth and caring to positively affect everyone we come in contact with—even those who initially try to make us feel like “outsiders”. Buscaglia believed that each of us has something unique to give to the world—and that can be reflected in the ways in which we express love.
This Valentine’s Day, I challenge you to think of several ways that you can BE the love that makes another person’s day. Stop listening to media’s narrow definition of love and take a proactive approach in defining it on your own. Ask yourself how you can make someone else feel important, needed, and wanted. Go to a nursing home and volunteer your time reading, talking, or playing cards with the residents. Go to a school and tutor children who need extra help, or write letters for the blind. Perhaps you can express your love for others by taking whatever skill you have and teaching it to those for whom it might make a difference in their lives. Visit an animal shelter and donate a bag of food, a few toys or treats, or sign up to walk the dogs a couple of times a month. The list is endless and limited only by your own creativity.
Dr. Buscaglia was a riveting speaker and lecturer. His passion for spreading the message of love was quite compelling. He was referred to as a “cheerleader for life”, urging us all not to be afraid to embrace all of life’s wonders and joys, as well as the necessary sorrows that human life entails. Back then I remember watching him and thinking it was kind of a sappy message. Now with a lot more life experience (as well as behavioral training) behind me, I realize he was a pioneer in discovering what might really bring meaning and peace to our lives once and for all.
So if you’d like, go out and buy that chocolate heart. In fact, buy two. Give one to yourself as validation for the terrific person you are, and buy one for someone else, who could use a smile—a relative you haven’t seen for a while, a child whose family doesn’t have much, a former teacher or health care provider who may have changed your life.
Now get ready to celebrate AMORE, in ALL of its forms, and let this be the best Valentine’s Day you’ve ever had–knowing that you are indeed an “insider”, who enriches your corner of the world in a way that only you can do.
Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D. is the host of THE ITALIAN ART OF LIVING WELL (Mondays 7AM streaming in real time www.wnhu.net), author of LIVING LA DOLCE VITA and LEMONS INTO LIMONCELLO—found wherever books are sold. Subscribe to The Italian Tribune where her columns appear weekly. Check out my Facebook pages: Facebook.com/ItalianArtofLivingWell & Facebook.com/LemonsintoLimoncello. Follow me on Twitter here: twitter.com/RaeleenMautner