The first Valentine’s Day flowers I received were during my freshmen year at a small Bible school in Rhode Island. All day, floral delivery drivers crisscrossed the school grounds, delivering bright bouquets to triumphant classmates. I’d been dating the same boy for less than a year and wasn’t sure what to expect. He was a cadet at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island. Could he even send flowers?
Then came a knock on my door. Someone handed me a single red rose wreathed with baby’s breath from the boy I loved. More than three years—and many flower deliveries—later, I married him.
This Valentine’s Day we celebrated at home with a family dinner, but according to The History Channel’s website, Americans typically spend $20 billion to show their love, buying 35 million boxes of chocolate and 220 million roses. But what do such trifles have to do with real love?
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends,” the apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 13:4-8.
The first time I read those words I was in elementary school. They were the most beautiful words I’d ever encountered. They still are.
When I consider the faces of abandoned children in the orphanage newsletter stuck on my fridge, the church family struggling to care for a foster child with special needs, the terrified refugees who’ve fled their homes in Syria or the women and children battling cold and hunger in the Ukraine, I am reminded that real love doesn’t end with those nearest to me.
It extends to the suffering and the forgotten.
A minister who ran an after-school program for kids in Washington D.C. once described money as “units of love.”
Lately, when I’ve been tempted to spend more on myself than I truly need, I’ve kept myself in check by reciting, “I don’t love houses; I love orphans. I don’t love appliances; I love orphans. I don’t love cars; I love orphans.” Or as J.R.R. Tolkien said, in a quote scrawled on the whiteboard at my local gym, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
I’m all for flowers and chocolate—especially if they’re from a local, family-owned business. But, I want to make all that love go a little further by sharing it beyond those nearest and dearest, not just on Valentine’s Day but year round.
One thing I guarantee: you won’t have to look far to find someone who needs it.