It was very different, and not at all unpleasant. But since today is Valentine's Day, it also started me thinking about being alone on Valentine's Day. This national holiday of love has a bad rap, setting up even those of us who are in relationships for disappointment, blame and bitterness. So what could we be doing with this love fest instead? How about SPREADING some love?
In this age of global communications, it's easy to spread that love locally, nationally or around the world. Giving and volunteering is a sure-fire way to make yourself feel better. In fact, many studies indicate that volunteering is actually good for your health.
So how can you get involved? How can you become more active in giving, volunteering or both? Here are some suggestions:
- Contact your local food bank. Food banks often need help taking in food, stocking the shelves, or staffing the facility so that the food gets to where it needs to go.
- Ask a local minister or priest about things you can do to help in the community.
- Visit a nursing home or senior center. Many elderly people are lonely themselves, and anxious for someone to talk to.
- Ask local schools if they have need for volunteers. Sitting down with a kindergarten class and reading "One Fish, Two Fish" is a sure way to make you feel warm inside.
- If animals are your thing, contact the local animal shelter to find out what kind of help you can offer. Dogs need to be walked, cats need to be loved, and the animals just need human contact.
- Volunteer at one of this country's marvelous National Parks.
- The Red Cross, a national disaster relief organization, often has need of volunteers
- Participate in one of several national service programs, listed at serve.gov.
- A loan of just $25 can help an entrepreneur in developing countries, allow a farmer to buy seed, provide fabric to make clothing in Africa, or help send a child to school. Loans at kiva.org recycle as soon as they are paid back; you can lend again and again, or you can take your money back out as needed. To date I have made 13 Kiva loans; as they get paid back, I lend again. You can give Kiva cards as gifts, as well, so people you love can have the joy of giving.
- Heifer International allows people to help purchase agricultural livestock and basic living necessities for people in developing countries. A donation can help buy a chicken, goat, a pair of seedlings, or build a clean water pump in a village.