Blog, Social Justice

Ways to Celebrate & Practice Love Beyond February

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With Valentine’s Day situated right in the middle of the month, it is easy to associate February with the month of love. From late December and on, plastic Valentine’s decorations permeate stores and restaurants. Like most holidays, the officially recognized day to celebrate love has been commodified for profit. Somewhere in all the consumerism, and in our general culture, the meaning of love has been lost over time, if it was ever a universally understood idea to begin with. 

Although she needs no introduction, bell hooks (1952-2021) was a cultural critic, feminist theorist and writer who wrote a book on this topic, All About Love (1999). She lays out her argument for the importance and need for love in society. Ultimately, she believed in love as a transformative power and  issued a call to action for society to return to love. Her working definition of love that she used, from M. Scott Peck was the following: 

“The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is as love does. Love is an act of will– namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

From this framework, here are some ideas to show love to others in your life. 

Love for your partner, family, and friends

Since this piece is not focused on romantic love, I’m making this section about all the people we spend a lot of time with in our lives, including a partner, family members, and friends. 

Try a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly check-in: this is something I’ve seen suggested for romantic partners, but I think it would be cool to try with family and friends, too. Set aside some time to check in with them periodically: how are they feeling? What are some recent triumphs or struggles? Offer your support and actually show up in that capacity for them. 

Suggest an out-of-the-norm outing: if you usually hang out indoors, try doing something outside. Usually do movie nights at home? Maybe think of trying a drive-in or movie theater. Breaking out of usual habits, even when it comes to recreational time, can be refreshing and can teach you something new about your loved one, or spark a special memory to share with them. 

Love for your children, or the children in your life

Children are little humans and should be treated as such. All too often we see or hear people share their dislike or flat-out hatred of children, and that is just wrong. I personally love what bell hooks had to say about children in her book:

“Love is as love does, and it is our responsibility to give children love. When we love children we acknowledge by our very action that they are not property, that they have rights– that we respect and uphold their rights.”

Some ways to express love and respect to the children in your life, whether you’re a parent, an aunt or uncle, or have friends with kids: 

Focus on conversations that go beyond surface level (with parent’s permission if they’re not your child, of course): try connecting with them on a topic that you know is important to them, sit next to them rather than stand above them, ask questions, and make genuine eye contact. People patronize children while forgetting that they’re wise and intuitive. 

Invite them out to do something they enjoy, and have fun with it. More than anything, kids enjoy and learn through play. In my time, I’ve never seen a child upset over a trusted adult inviting them to enjoy a fun activity. 

Love for your community

Volunteer: be open to calls for volunteers where you live. From assisting at your local library to the food bank to the animal shelter, opportunities to help are everywhere. Bonus points if you take a friend with you for a different way to connect with them. 

Shop small and buy local: you can show support and love for your community by putting your money right back into it. If and where you can, skip shopping at major big box retailers and buy from your neighbors. Picking your produce up at a farmer’s market is a great way to do this (and the produce is fresher there, too). Personally, I’m on the hunt for an indie coffee shop to buy from instead of going to Starbucks.

Donate: spread money to causes you care about when you can. No amount is too little. With a little research, you can find calls for donations on social media or organization websites. (Just a friendly reminder that FBC donates 5% of every box to a different organization every month! For February it was The Embodiment Institute. )

Love for yourself

Old adages exist for a reason, and the same is true for this one: you cannot pour from an empty cup. Try being intentional about doing things that are important to you now and in the long run. This could look like being more firm about your boundaries with certain people, making time for movement more often, or nurturing the parts of yourself that can get neglected in the busy day-to-day. Whatever it may be, incorporating (or removing) small changes that help us can make all the difference in the future. 

Love for yourself is important. Like bell hooks said, “self-love is the foundation of our loving practice. Without it our efforts to love fail.”

Nina Garcia is a reader, reviewer, and devoted coffee drinker from Texas. When she’s not reading or watching Netflix, she is working on writing projects, including a middle grade novel. Favorite genres: anti-racist and intersectional feminist non-fiction, science fiction, horror, and contemporary with elements of fantasy.

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