Faith Matters: Celebrate love by sharing love: Loving one another means everyone, not just one special person

The Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas outside her South Deerfield home.

The Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas outside her South Deerfield home. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By THE REV. LINDA M. RHINEHART NEAS

Interfaith/Interspiritual Ministry

Published: 02-09-2024 12:53 PM

In a few days, people around the world will spend billions of dollars on cards, candy, jewelry, flowers, and a night on the town to prove their love and affection to a special someone. I may be wrong, but I think St. Valentine is rolling over in his grave.

The day we celebrate is a holy day dedicated to the remembrance of a third century Roman bishop who was imprisoned and martyred for his beliefs. In years past, this day was a time to remember how much God loved us and to share that love with others. Unfortunately, it was co-opted by the material world. Last year, it was estimated that, worldwide, people spent over $25 billion!

As a minister and activist, I can’t help but wonder what $25 billion could do for the state of this world. How many meals would that provide for the hungry; how many warm jackets and boots would it offer those who are cold; how many apartments could be secured for families in need? Imagine.

The chief tenant of every faith path is to love one another. This is said in many different ways, but the meaning is clear. Loving one another means everyone, not just one special person. When we love one another, we don’t let the people around us go hungry, or not have proper clothing, or shelter. We help them because we are all connected — we are all family.

In addition, I truly believe that showing grandiose displays of love and affection once a year is not what it is about. Love is an everyday affair.

Small kindnesses — making tea/coffee in the morning, helping with chores, holding hands, saying, “I love you,” often and with sincerity — are what make love real.

If only half the people spending money for Valentine’s gifts gave that money to organizations vested in peacemaking, humanitarian services and social justice, think of the good that could be done in the name of those they love. What a wonderful gift that would be!

Organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Possible Dreams International or Heifer International help those in need to have better lives by providing the necessary tools that a family or a community needs. Think of the joy on the faces of a young family who are given the keys to a new home that was built by community volunteers.

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Imagine, for the cost of a night at a fancy restaurant, a family could be given two goats. The milk from these goats not only gives them sustenance, but it also allows them to make cheese which can be sold, providing money to pay for daily needs. Or, for the cost of a dozen roses and candy, the money goes to help bring clean water to a community where water has caused disease and death.

The world has always had poverty, pain, disease, but at this moment in the history of humankind, it is truly chaotic. We have the power to make changes. Those changes can be as simple as bringing a meal to a sick neighbor and as profound as donating supplies or your time to community projects. Each of us has the ability to do something.

I am touched by this quote by Mother Teresa: “Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.” For me, this has been a touchstone for my daily life.

This Valentine’s Day, why not give a gift of love that keeps giving?

Show those you love that you want to celebrate your love by sharing it with the world around you. Help create a tidal wave of loving energy that wraps around the globe. Who knows, your one small act might just be what causes the tipping point that lessens the chaos and begins the era of peace and loving kindness we have all hope for through the years.

The Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas is an ordained interfaith minister. She graduated from The New Seminary in New York City. She often fills the pulpit in local Franklin County Churches. She maintains an international, online ministry through Facebook.