by Allison Willingham
Lifestyle & Entertainment Columnist
There is such pressure in society for people to fit into monogamous, picture-perfect, smiling couples gifting each other watches, jewelry, flowers, and candies. The desire to be loved—and to have others recognize our own lovability—at times seem to transcend our own capability to give love to others. Although February 14 is still around the corner, the color red has filled store windows, TV and radio ads, and social media posts for weeks. Friends and coworkers are fretting: what will they do for Valentine’s Day?
No one wants to be alone on Valentine’s Day, and no one seems hesitant to let everyone else know how just despondent that idea of being dateless on this holiday makes him or her feel. It is strange; on Mother’s Day, for example, one seldom will hear another complaining, “Ugh, I feel like I am the only one without a mother on this day!” And yet, there is something about Valentine’s Day that conjures in many of us a fixation on conforming to the pressure of the holiday and romantic love. Many of us furiously resist being unattached on this date, and feel complete despair when our red-hued dreams of flowers and candlelight do not unfold as we had desired.
On Thanksgiving and Christmas, so many of us offer a seat at the dinner table to those we know may spend the holiday alone. But why do we not embrace that same inviting attitude for a day of love? Imagine what February 14 could mean to Columbia and its surrounding areas if we all stopped worrying about diamonds and expensive dinners. We could channel the desperation we feel to be part of the perfect couple into actions in which we gave care or attention to those who live daily without it—and residents of the Midlands could truly make Valentine’s Day an annual event in which we supply love and nurturing back into our larger, persistent relationship: our community.
Below is a small list of things you could choose to do this Valentine’s Day instead of just buying jewelry and wine. But this list just scratches the tip of the surface. If we can begin to think of love in a more selfless way, to recognize how this community needs our love and nurturing more than we need a watch or a greeting card this February 14, Valentine’s Day could truly become a meaningful day of love.
- Be a man who stands with those who have survived sexual and dating violence. Like many nonprofits providing care to survivors of sexual assault, Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands struggles to find males in the community who will be visible and vocal supporters. That’s why the organization has started their “100 Men Against Sexual Assault” program. They are asking for local men to make a $100 donation and lead by example by supporting survivors and leading healthy conversations about relationships.
- Take your Valentine or a friend to have a beer at Craft and Draft, and money will be donated to families battling cancer. This publication is actually participating in this fundraiser. Cancer of Many Colors is a Lexington-based nonprofit organization providing financial assistance to local cancer patients and their families. Beginning Valentine’s Day and lasting for three days, Craft and Draft on Devine Street will donate $1 any time a customer buys a beer and mentions Cancer of Many Colors. The Midlands Anchor will match that donation. That means for each beer you and your friends drink, $2 from your purchase will go to helping those in need.
- Be the Valentine to a homeless animal. The love of your life may actually be a furry friend waiting for you to give it a home—but even if you are not in a position to adopt an animal, there are hundreds of animals in local shelters who spend Valentine’s Day alone. You could take a homeless dog out for a walk or play date. Or, you could accept an invitation from PETSinc in West Columbia to be their Valentine. Currently, they have seven heartworm positive dogs whose medical needs direly need sponsorships.
- Join Respite Awareness Day at the State House. The SC Respite Coalition is a nonprofit that takes care of those who take care of others. For Midlands residents who are caregivers to terminally ill and special needs family members, the Coalition offers temporary relief and assistance to prevent their loved ones from being institutionalized. At 10:30 a.m. on Valentine’s Day this week, the Coalition will gather at the State House recognize local caregivers and the legislators who have supported programs providing financial assistance to families in these situations.
- Be the Valentine to a family who needs some extra love. There are several homeless shelters in the Midlands filled with individuals who do not have loved ones with whom they can spend Valentine’s Day—and who need your help far more than you realize. Take, for example, Hannah House, a transitional shelter for women and children. Many of the women living there are escaping domestic violence situations and other life crises. This Valentine’s Day, you could donate household items like bedding, computers, or cleaning supplies, or toys and school supplies for the children, to help make their struggle a little easier. Hannah House and other shelters also seek volunteers to help upkeep the shelter and mentor the children staying in it.
So rather than feel alone on February 14, treat the Midlands as if it were your Valentine, and give your community all the love you can. Whether you choose to provide love to animals, families in need, those who are ill or have special needs, the environment, or any other part of this community, there is so much more to do on Valentine’s Day than buying roses and jewelry. And whether or not you’re single or in a relationship, putting love back into your community is an action with unlimited benefits—for you, for other families, and for the Midlands at large.
We’ve given you five alternatives to spending February 14 in an expensive restaurant. So the question is, how will you celebrate the day of love this year?