SMART & SPICY-Listen Up! What To Do About Valentine's Day

I stepped onto the bus, mesmerized. A forest of fine ribbons hung in front of me, each tipped by a tiny origami crane, uniquely patterned, of singular colors. I wished I could have one.

It was Valentine's Day. I had gone to the post office the day before, mailing Valentine's cards to people I cared about.

"Did you get any Valentine's?" the bus driver asked.

"No, but that didn't stop me from sending out lots of them," I answered.

"Then one of these is for you," he said, giving me a big smile.

"Really? I was struck by how beautiful they are."

"Yes, one has your name on it; take one."

"Did you make these?" I asked?

"Yes, it's a pleasure. Please, pick one you like."

It was charming. I realized he'd spent time making them, then placing them painstakingly on the ceiling, half inch apart, creating

this cloud of whimsical cranes for strangers. He deserved an award for being a good human being.

That scene was in San Francisco, and it lives on in my head as a kind way to make life nicer.

I have strong feelings about Valentine's Day. You can enjoy it, if you're in love, or not. That's why I'd sent cards to friends; it's hard not to notice the ads; not to feel left out.

We all know people (some of us might be those people) who, in effect, say, "Bah, Humbug," insisting it's a Hallmark invention, refusing to participate in commercialism.

Life's short. I've long felt that any chance to celebrate, to make yourself, or other people, smile, is a way to make life richer. And conversely, you get a good feeling when you're kind.

Since I began to feel this way, quite a long time ago now, I've presented seminars on the science of kindness. The latest scientific research, validated by peer-reviewed studies, confirms mind-body connections.

Turns out, just being kind to someone actually releases chemicals in our bodies that make us healthier. I did extensive research in preparing seminars; I was astonished that our longevity increases when we're kind. It's better than pills.

So whether you do something nice because you're conditioned by tradition, or whether you altruistically want to make someone happy, or whether you listen to what I'm telling you, and you want to flood yourself with a life-enhancing mix, your motive's immaterial to how your body reacts.

An intriguing sign appeared in front of the Grace Lutheran Church in Culver City:

Interesting, that concept. Worth your consideration as February 14 gets close?

* * *

$19 billion! That's what Americans spent on Valentine's gifts in 2015, according to Forbes.

Who do you think spent more, men or women? Do you think more went for flowers, or jewelry?

Men spent almost twice as much. $2.1 billion was spent on flowers; $4.8 billion on jewelry. Date nights cost $3.6 billion. $703 million bought gifts for pets!

Only 21% of Americans spent money for Valentine's gifts.

So here's what I believe people should do on Valentine's Day: Think of everyone you know. Do you know anyone living alone, with little chance of getting a Valentine? Maybe you know someone who just had a break-up, or who was divorced? Can you imagine how they'd feel to get Valentine's card?

Unexpected gifts count; when someone expects little, the surprise feels splendid. It's the "Oh, someone's thinking of me" moment.

Everybody's hurting inside. Everybody feels alone at times. We all need encouragement.

Maybe you know someone truly alone, with no family.

Maybe you know someone having a hard time, feeling a bit down.

Maybe you could make a difference.

There's a homeless man I pass on the street, always on the same corner. Often he goes inside the Jack In The Box there, leaving his shopping cart on the street. One day I was wrapping fruit to take with me, and on impulse, I grabbed an extra banana. Not expensive; it was hardly a grand gesture. I'd planned to offer it, but he wasn't there, just his cart was. I gently put the banana on top of his things. What do you think he felt, knowing someone had left it for him?

I felt good; it felt human. Surely it was little enough.

How do you think he'd feel to find a Valentine's Card then?

The paying-it-forward trend of buying coffee, or paying the toll, for the person behind you in line? You could make someone smile.

Did you know there's a "Random Acts of Kindness Foundation"? They're celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Week, from February 12-18. Check the website.

In relationship seminars, I usually encourage people to pay attention to older women. Often women are ignored as they get older; it might mean the world if someone just came up and talked with them. It works equally with men. Life, so wonderful, can also be so lonely. You have the power, whoever you are, whatever your situation, to make life sweet for someone else. It only takes one small gesture.

You could make your own card; just get some red paper and a black pen; you don't need to be an artist.

Roiled by current events, racing through the days, maybe just stop. Give a thought. Make it nicer for someone.

Happy Valentine's Day! My wish is that you yourself smile, and get to do that for someone you know.


Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything.

You can write to her at:


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