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No gift? Write a love letter

by SHOLEH PATRICK
| February 13, 2024 1:00 AM

Valentine’s Day isn’t just for young lovers anymore, nor lovers for that matter. It’s for love. And love thrives on words.

Remember those mini-Valentine cards we traded as kids in elementary school? They continued a love letter tradition that began with St. Valentine’s legendary scribblings to his lady centuries ago. Somehow, we’ve lost the artful delight of love letters.

Love takes many forms. The most important person in each life isn’t necessarily a spouse or partner. It could be a sibling, child or grandchild. Perhaps a close friend or an exceptionally kind neighbor.

Whoever it is, Valentine’s Day is a good day to write a different kind of love letter, an expression of appreciation whose value far exceeds anything money can buy. A letter costs nothing but time (and you’ve still got some before tomorrow).

Everyone wants to feel treasured. Reading a heartfelt description of why we’re noticed or appreciated, of the positive impact and value we have to another person can elevate the soul and imbue the spirit with renewed confidence. Best of all, a handwritten note can be saved to read again and again, especially in a weak moment or on a bad day.

What if I’m not a wordsmith, you might ask? It doesn’t matter. A certain level of compassion already exists with this person; they know you. They will see your words as the gift they are, and sense the deeper meaning behind any awkwardness of expression you may feel.

A few ideas to start:

Use nice stationery if you have it, a colored piece of paper you might cut in a pleasing shape, or if you’re skilled, draw something they like in the corner of a regular sheet of paper (effort is more important than talent here). A heart, a flower, a fish for the fisherman, some symbol of your relationship or their tastes.

Begin with appreciation. Valentine’s Day “seemed a good time to express” why they are important to you. How much they mean to you, that they make your life better, add light to your darker days or help make hard times easier. True gratitude beats flowers and chocolates hands down.

Mention the little things. Specifics help people feel seen and know that what they’ve done for others doesn’t go unnoticed. Listing both big things and one or two small ones expresses a breadth of awareness that gives a love letter greater impact. You might hear, “I didn’t know you realized/knew/noticed that!”

Be generous with compliments. Who doesn’t need those? Are they kind, smart, creative, dedicated, industrious, clever, courageous or strong? Whatever you admire or respect about them — that doesn’t have to do with you, or it isn’t pure compliment — is likely to make them feel good.

Add a coupon. What could they use, in terms of help or time? My family liked my Valentine’s Day “coupons” to be used whenever they decided: For a skipped chore, a hated errand run for them, a game/chick flick night complete with favorite snack and no complaints, a cooked meal delivered, whatever makes them happy.

All of that simply adds up to expressing love to one who’s given it in spades. Isn’t that the best part of Valentine’s Day?

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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network who’s lucky in love. Email sholeh@cdapress.com.