This Year, Send Your Neighbors a Valentine, Too

Photo courtesy of Kaz via PixabayWhile Valentine’s Day traditionally celebrates romantic love, the holiday can also serve as a reminder to care for your community.

I don’t know if I’ve seen anything worse on Valentine’s Day than when two people are having a romantic dinner and, while all lovey-dovey with each other, snub the wait staff or become annoyed at other diners as if they were encroaching on their own personal rom-com.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, love should be spread to encompass everyone around you, not simply your significant other, so here are some ways to broaden your experience of love this holiday.

If you’re going out to dinner with your significant other, try somewhere that responsibly sources its ingredients. Uncommon Ground’s Edgewater location (1401 W. Devon Ave.) proudly touts the United States’ first certified organic rooftop farm, from which many of its dishes’ ingredients are harvested. Another great local eatery is Alice and Friends’ Vegan Kitchen (5812 N. Broadway St.). If its Michelin ranking isn’t enough to persuade you, its entirely plant-based menu will help you reduce your carbon footprint as quickly as you can order yourself dessert. Also, don’t forget to be kind to the wait staff. Servers typically don’t make a living wage without tips, so leave a decent one — they’re people, too. Plus, they’re working on Valentine’s Day.

If you’re fortunate enough not to work on the holiday, consider lending some of your time to others. Chicago Cares, a community service organization, compiles an online service calendar that can help you stay informed on volunteering opportunities around the city every day of the week. The calendar lists opportunities Feb. 14 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you’ve got an hour or two to spare, this can be a great way to give back to your community, while still having time to spend with your loved ones in the evening.

Speaking of, instead of buying your loved ones gifts this year, try gifting in their name. With a donation of $20 or more to Save the Children, an international children’s rights organization, a card will be mailed to the recipient of your choice to inform them of your gift. As its website says, “That’s even better than a Valentine!” A donation of this kind can go toward purchasing a blanket to warm and comfort a child, newborn essentials such as diapers and soap, a book bag, school supplies or tuition for one AIDS orphan in Malawi.

Love this Valentine’s Day can be simple, such as shoveling snow off your neighbor’s sidewalk while shoveling your own, paying for someone’s coffee at the Dunkin Donuts down the street or calling home to say hello to your parents; they’ll appreciate it. And in response, maybe they’ll, too, make the effort, turning the habit of the holiday into a meaningful expression of love — one encompassing everyone.

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