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5 Alternative Ways to Love on Valentine's Day

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If you have a pulse and are not evil incarnate, chances are you deserve to experience love on Valentine's Day.

Maybe your primary relationship is healthy and secure, or you have another good reason to avoid over-priced roses and slabs of tiramisu. Perhaps you are single or in a troubled relationship. Regardless of your personal circumstances, Valentine's Day is a perfect contrarian opportunity to take your love elsewhere, for the greater good. For a worthwhile soul-stretching exercise that will do more good than harm, try any of these five alternatives:

1. Love Yourself. This does not mean merely self-medicating with chocolate or getting a pedicure. Treat yourself to the full-spectrum love experience. Be your parent, your baby, your best friend, coach and mentor. Be gentle, and be honest. First, take inventory. How loving have you been? How lovable? Forgiveness can only come from love. Not self-pity or rationalization, but real compassion and redemption. Have you been honorable, positive and generous in spirit? Then self-love will come easily. Have you been a jerk? Weak? Arrogant? Selfish? Love yourself anyway (but in the case of some of the aforementioned, don't expect anyone else but your mom to love you as well). One of the most beneficial things we can do for others is to love ourselves into becoming better people.

2. Love Other Lovers. Make a "tolerance donation" at the office to the co-worker who can't stop talking about her personal life; be patient and kind for no apparently valid reason. Hug or otherwise celebrate the newly-engaged, newly-married, newly-pregnant or new parents. Know that there is an unlimited amount of love in the world and bask in the glow of their abundance. Ask them about their lives and really truly listen. Dismiss your irritation or jealousy and be happy for those "sickening" couples indulging in PDA. Do you know any lonely people for whom you can play matchmaker? Of course, that one is risky, so best not try anything unless you are really sure.

3. Love The Elderly. It may be said that "the children are the future." Well, the elderly are our future in that they are who we turn into a few more years down the road. And they can be harder to love than children or puppies. All the more reason to step up. Love does not coexist with laziness or cowardice. So, go. Find a friend or relative or even acquaintance who knows someone in a nursing home and bring them flowers or a card, a magazine or stuffed animal. Or, just sit there for an hour and be supportive: a drink of water, help with the tv, or admiration of the photos of their grand/great-grandchildren. Listen to them or assist with some other little thing that they will appreciate and that the over-worked CNAs can't do for them as often or as quickly as they would like.

4. Love Your Server. Overtip, grossly, especially for small food/beverage purchases. As in, a 50 percent to 100 percent tip. Think about it: Even if you put a five dollar bill in the tip jar at the coffee counter, will you really miss it as much as the barista will appreciate it? Waitstaff, drivers, caregivers -- especially when it comes to domestic help -- these are some of the hardest working, least-compensated employees. Are you fortunate enough to be able to pay a housekeeper? Why not pay her double this week? Would it really be a hardship for you? Guaranteed, it will make her week -- or possibly her month.

5. Love The World. Take a deep breath and send love out into the world. You don't have to like it. You don't have to believe it is beautiful. Love it and find beauty in it anyway. You generate and exude energy; the world is stuck with you for now, so why not make an effort to have a positive impact?

I'd like to include an assurance that if you do any/all of these things, then you will be repaid tenfold, love will find you, and all will be well. However, that's not necessarily true. But, when it's really about love, you take the loving action anyway.

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