I don’t have anything against Hallmark. Or Valentine’s Day.

I don’t have anything against special occasions. Or celebration.

But what irks me is this: when we’re fed ideas about these “picture perfect” lives that for most people simply don’t exist. Our culture tends to lure us into specific ideas about what our lives should look like. Those shiny heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, the perfect red roses, and the even-shinier and rosier laughing faces of lovers at an expensive restaurant can be a set-up for deep disappointment, loneliness, and regret.

If you’ve got that Hallmark card kinda life, great!  I’d almost say there’s no need to read on. But that’s not true. Because even if you do have a life that looks like that, I dare risk it to say, that there’s still something much better waiting for you this Valentine’s Day. And it doesn’t come in a box — heart-shaped or otherwise.

And if you don’t have that Hallmark kinda life, join the crowd. Most of us don’t have lives that look like catalogues and commercials. But you know what? Even if our lives don’t look like that, they can feel like we’ve always imagined.

What if Valentine’s Day weren’t about jewelry and chocolate and hearts and lovers? What if, *gasp*, it were simply about love?

What if we chose to make it about love? Of all shapes and sizes.

What if each of us set out on our own small personal mission to create a few pinpricks of light for people in our lives this Valentine’s Day? Sure, one of those people can be someone we romantically love. But what if we included our family, our co-workers, and people we never met?

Here are a few ideas:

Create some paper bag love at your house or office for Valentine’s Day:
These mailbags o’ love are great for love of all shapes and sizes. Fill ’em with sweet treats or sweet notes.

* Purchase some colorful bags. (Try your local dollar store or make ’em out of brown paper lunch bags.)

* Find a central location in your home or office to leave the bags visible.

* Label the bags so that everyone has one.

* Provide blank paper, note cards, or stationery near the bags.

* Explain to everyone that these bags are for people to leave secret or signed notes of things they’re grateful for about the person, special memories, happy stories, inspiring quotes, etc.

* As the organizer, see if you can get the ball rolling by leaving at least one note or two for everyone. Model how it’s done!

* Watch the magic happen.

Make a Love List. Make a Love List. Make a Love List.

If you’ve been following along with me for any length of time, you’ve heard me talk about Love Lists on countless occasions. Well, here I go again. And you know why? Because they work. Because they bring great joy to the Love List maker as well as the Love List receiver. Because they never get old. Because no one ever gets tired or hearing what makes them lovable. Because no matter how tired or depressed or anxiety-ridden we are, making and giving a Love List is a quick path to the light. Download your free printable here.

Send a note or letter to someone who is lonely, depressed, or grieving.

Don’t wait. Do it now. Think about someone in your life who may need an extra boost. And simply write a few lines on a handmade greeting card, printed photo, or notecard and let them know that you are thinking of them with love. Real words. Authentic feelings. You don’t have to say a lot for it to mean a lot. Also, watch how good you feel when you drop this in the mail. Sweet as chocolate.

Photo Credits:
Paper Bag Love: Bo Mackison; Other photos: Sherry Belul + Canstock Photo