What do you think of when you hear that Valentine’s Day is approaching? If you’re like so many of us, you’ve been conditioned to think almost solely of romantic love: flowers, candy, jewelry and tons of greeting cards.
Besides being narrowly focused, this sole emphasis on romantic love, or eros, can cause many people to experience loneliness on a day that could be used as a time to celebrate the many varied and beautiful types of love. One of the greatest risks for seniors is isolation and loneliness. It’s important to stay connected through all types of love!
The origins of Valentine’s Day are not definite, but historians generally agree that it originated to honor one of the three Saints Valentine. Centuries later, Valentine’s Day is almost singly associated with romantic love. Americans alone spend billions of dollars for Valentine’s Day gifts! And if you’re not involved in a romantic relationship…well, where does this leave you?
There are many other types of love that could be celebrated on Valentine’s Day! When we emphasize only romantic love, we miss the opportunity to celebrate other longer-lasting, highly fulfilling types of affection. Amongst others, there is philia, which is friendship and good will toward others. There is pragma, or practical love, the longer-term love that is based on commitment and shared goals. And, there is agape, or universal love, sometimes also compared to charity or associated with the love between God and humankind.
All of these are equally legitimate forms of love to celebrate! When is the last time we thought of giving a Valentine’s cards as a way of thanking a friend for support? Or how about using Valentine’s Day to celebrate a couple whose marriage or relationship has spanned decades? And how can we practice agape, the universal love of others, on Valentine’s Day? We can do something nice, something unexpected, for a friend, coworker, or even a stranger! Buy someone’s lunch, visit someone who is often alone, or practice philanthropy, as you are able, to help others.
At Westminster Canterbury, this year we are celebrating through a Renewal of Vows ceremony for resident couples; staff and residents exchanging “Valentine Grams” to express their appreciation; and a Reflections of Love Open House to share wedding photos, love letters and trinkets. Let’s challenge the “traditional” sense of Valentine’s Day this year. Perhaps skip that routine box of chocolates and take time to celebrate those other important loves in your life! Let’s make this Valentine’s Day the most inclusive one yet!