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HumankindNESS: In Other Words

By Jennifer Richardson
In case you missed it, we just experienced another Valentine’s Day. This is a time when we collectively celebrate love. And love should be celebrated; it is amazing.

People think that this holiday is about couples, and that is certainly part of it. One of my daughters jokingly referred to it as singles awareness day. With four women in our household this holiday has become fraught with silliness, hope, high expectations, heartbreak, and above all, love. It is a big deal, and we enjoy it all.

Our girls wake up every year to gifts from their dad, who will always be their first valentine. We have also enjoyed the young gentlemen who have shared this day with us over the years.

We have seen chocolates, teddy bears, flowers, and even some jewelry. We have seen beautiful cards, handwritten sentiments, and one brilliant young man who brought a rose for one daughter–and one for each of her sisters. He will forever be remembered fondly. Gifts have been abundant, and this year we even celebrated an engagement when our first daughter received a marriage proposal.

All of these gifts were wonderful. They were all examples of different ways to say, I love you. One of the world’s best phrases for sure, but what if we had to actually say how we felt about people without using these words?

Love is so much bigger than three words. So this year as this holiday about affairs of the heart approached, I thought about what love has meant to me. As I contemplated, I asked myself, what would I say to the people I love, if I could not use the word “love.”

Single, dating, engaged, or married—we all have people in our lives who deserve our expressions of love. What a great Valentine’s Day tradition; come up with a way to say I love you to those we care about, in other words.

I offer these other words to those I love.

To my eldest daughter, I am so proud of how you view the world as a place to serve. You bring humor, wit, and logic to my world. I miss you the moment you are gone, and I appreciate your love of all things musical. The beginning of your life gave me a new identity as a mother, which continues to make me a better person.

To my middle daughter, you understand the forgiveness, openness, and balance it takes to have a long-time friend and you do that so well. You would go at a moment’s notice to assist someone in need. Looking at you offers me a glimpse into that long-ago world of myself as a younger person, and I can only hope that I embodied your intelligence and helpful nature.

To my youngest daughter, your bright spirit and excitement about life is amazing. You have taught me what family loyalty means, and I know you would always defend those closest to you. You are a daily example of forgiveness. You take opportunities to help and give back. You gave me the incredible gift of a grandchild, which helped me understand a whole new place in my heart.

To my husband, my life began when I met you. You are the hardest working person I know, and I am amazed at how you will do anything for your family. I know how deeply I feel about you, because when I haven’t seen you in a few hours, and then I do see you, everything in my day is better just because you are there. Marrying you is the single best choice I have ever made.

I love these people, and I will always use the phrase I love you. But there is an influence and vibrancy in also choosing other words, and how we express ourselves can make our message more powerful. The people we love deserve to know how we feel.

As we see Valentine’s seasons come and go, I wish you love. And I hope you take up the challenge to express your love, in other words.

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