Where Love and Charity Meet

Where Love and Charity Meet: Add Something Meaningful to Your Valentine’s Day
by Stephanie Stein

So today is Valentine’s Day – the holiday of love. Chocolate, teddy bears, candy hearts, diamonds and red roses abound … everywhere you turn, someone is trying to sell you a package of love wrapped in a bow at an exorbitant price. But what if you could, in a real way, use Valentine’s Day to strengthen the love between you and your mate? Is it possible to turn this Hallmark holiday into something meaningful and sweet?

I think it is. This Valentine’s Day, embrace your wife, girlfriend, husband or boyfriend, and spread the love around – add humanity, compassion, and love for your fellow man to the mix. It’s a simple fact: acts of charity bring people closer together. Thinking unselfishly this holiday may be the most selfish thing you can do to ensure that your relationship grows.

Studies have shown that couples with a shared sense of purpose and a common value system stay together longer, are happier, and tend to be more satisfied with their relationships. Doing an altruistic act – be it volunteering or making a philanthropic gift – can be a fundamental value that adds meaning and depth to a relationship.

According to Cheryl Fishbein, PhD, a clinical psychologist and divorce mediator, “a shared activity, particularly an intense emotional experience such as volunteering in a soup kitchen, helping with a charity event, or coming together to choose a worthy organization, creates a connection like no other. The sense of accomplishment you get from doing a good deed which forces you to look beyond your personal world to the community at large can fortify any intimate relationship, even friendship.” And this shared passion goes a long way toward deepening the bond between two people, Fishbein says.

It is a tradition in many religions and cultures to help those in need during the holidays, and this is certainly true in Judaism. The Jewish principle of “tikkun olam” – repairing the world – helps us remember our less fortunate brothers and sisters even on a day of celebration. On holidays, food packages are distributed to the elderly and homeless, and gifts are given to needy children. Valentine’s Day, while not a Jewish holiday, affords you the opportunity to participate in the same spirit of giving.

What better way to show how much you care for your partner then by caring for others as well this February 14th. Instead of saying it with flowers, say it with acts of kindness. Generosity is a very attractive quality that is seen by many as romantic.

Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday this year. Even though it is a work day, there is little excuse not to spend the evening volunteering together as a couple or family or making out a list of non-profit organizations you plan to give to in 2011. Here is a short list of other good things you can do:

  • Instead of sending those roses to the one you love, send them to a hospital.
  • Instead of indulging in a decadent meal at a pricey restaurant, consider taking that $250 dollars and making a donation to a charity that you both feel passionately about.
  • Instead of serving breakfast in bed, how about volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter and dishing out food to those who really need it?
  • Why not spend some time helping others build a home through such organizations as Habitat for Humanity?
  • Instead of writing out a greeting card, how about filling out a donation card and mailing a check?

And, if you really do love the chocolates, teddy bears, and flowers, then still give all of those things. (There is certainly nothing wrong with that.) This year, however, add some form of charity to the day and your heart will be filled with more love than ever before. As you spread the goodness around, it will also bring you closer to your beloved. Think of it as a Valentine’s Day two-for-one!

Stephanie Risa Stein is the Founder & Managing Director of Philanthropic Capital Advisors (PCA), a global management firm that specializes in venture philanthropy and charitable investments. Through her work with PCA, Stephanie brings family foundations, corporations, philanthropists and NGO’s together to do good.