As it is February, I have been thinking a lot lately about the approaching Valentine’s Day holiday and what it means to me. It is commonly referred to as a holiday for romance, and in being so a holiday that feels exclusive to those in partnered romantic relationships. I am writing this to challenge that notion, because Valentine’s Day feels much bigger than this specific notion of love.
After all, can we not love places, our religions, our families, even ourselves? The Ancient Greeks believed there were 7 different types of love and had a word for each. Ranging from the love of one’s child, Storge, to universal love for fellow humans and a commitment to altruism, Agape.
I had heard this term Agape before, and it seems a better definition of love for a holiday that is dedicated entirely to the emotion. Especially, when you consider the origins of the holiday.
Admittedly, there is some mystery to the origin of Valentine’s Day. The famous St. Valentine is debated to be more than one man, though each has a story which reinforces the notion that his affiliation for the emotion of affection was not rooted in a focus on romantic partners.
The first story tells that he was a saint who continued to marry young couples when the Emperor of the Roman Empire at the time declared it illegal for young men to marry because they made better soldiers as bachelors. The other popular story says he was a separate Saint, also from the Roman Empire, who helped Christians escape imprisonment by Roman authorities. Either version you prefer, it seems to me that the love we should be celebrating is the love either St. Valentine had for his fellow man.
It pains me to think that a day which brings happiness to so many, can alternately make others feel lonely. The holiday has become warped with boastful gift giving which focuses too starkly on the title of lovers, or on the lack thereof. It is a regretful emotion that has been formulated by the businesses which produce life-size teddy bears and heart-shaped diamond jewelry. But the truth of the matter is, none of us is alone. And each person is the recipient of a love worth celebration.
This love could be for your partner, your child, or a friend. After all, friends are the family we choose. But it can also be between a larger network of people than that, one that you were perhaps unaware of until now. I am speaking of community.
The things that you love, the people you love, the places you enjoy spending your days in, all exist inside your community. And whether you have lived there for long or recently relocated, your community is tangible expression of Agape all around you.
Your servicemen and women, your teachers, your volunteers, your spiritual and elected leaders all show up every day for this network of people, including yourself. Work is done every day, silently, around you as an act of love toward you. You have been someone’s valentine all along, whether you knew it or not.
This love is no less love than that between partners, only a different kind of love, and one that is worthy of our celebrations.
So, I encourage you to reflect on this notion during the month of February, to reflect on Agape whenever you see a crepe paper heart hung in a window, or a cupid pasted to a door. I am not suggesting that you refute any romance this Valentine’s Day, but instead that you celebrate all forms of passion and love which surround you. And if you are one to feel lonely surrounded by couples, remember that you are in a loving relationship with your community every day of the year.
About The Author
Morgan Downey is the Technical Writer and Newsletter Editor at Village Creed. She has a BA in Professional and Public Writing from Auburn University and loves connecting positively with the public through the written word.