Valentine’s Day comes around, and most of us are loving love, or seeking to find it. My question is, do we know what love really means?

American culture tells one tale to us. The namesake of Valentine’s Day and his story tells us a more beautiful, but tragic, tale. St. Valentine was a priest who lived in fourth century Rome. He showed kindness to persecuted Christians, helping them escape from being beaten and tortured in prison, and he wed Christian young people in secret at the church in a time when the emperor forbade marriage. Eventually Valentine’s deeds were discovered and he was sent to prison, tortured and killed because of the compassion he showed to the persecuted Christians. That sure is love, but what does it have to do with romance?

Romance, remember, meant just “adventure” long ago. If you had said in the 1800s something was “romantic,” you meant it was thrilling and adventurous. The same concept holds true today. If we want romance, we really mean adventure in a different sense of the word, to swoon or to be swooned.

St. Valentine’s love was not “romantic,” however you define romance. His love was courageous, and self-sacrificing. Simply put, his love was……loving. He set aside his needs to care for people who needed his help and hope so desperately, even forsaking his own life for the cause.

What I don’t understand is how this heavenly, selfless kind of love was morphed into cards, chocolates, candies, flowers and gifts for the person we say we love most, instead of turning attention towards the most unloved, forsaken people right around us.

I can tell you what I do understand better than what I don’t. I found true love. The crazy part about it is I didn’t find it in a man, or through any other person, at all. True love doesn’t come from what you find in another person.

It comes through you. True love is how you treat other people from the bottom of your heart. I’ve found it when I’ve shown kindness to people who don’t seem to deserve it; when I count my blessings, though trouble is easier to count; when I help my parents and co-workers “just because” I know they’d want me to, not because I’m being asked; when I see the sun’s magnificence blossom over the sky each morning; when I slow down and smell the roses; when I pull out a loaf of fresh bread, crisp from the oven, and then make cookies for my neighbors.

Americans discover this rewarding love usually just for the holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter — and then, like the decorations, it is removed and packed in storage. It shouldn’t be this way. Every day should start and end with thanksgiving and gratefulness, hope, generosity, warmth, genuine love, hospitality, joy and honesty. All of this is wrapped up in real love. From honest, selfless love blossoms everything beautiful and meaningful. If we started and ended every day this way, not just for the holidays, perhaps hard times wouldn’t be so difficult to bear.

I discovered peace, cheerfulness and contentment by learning confidence in myself and kindness to everyone else. Of course, the only reason we can find true love is because of the one who is the pure source of love: God.

You may or may not have a sweetheart you’re thinking of and writing a poem for this St. Valentine’s Day. No matter. True love is found in how you treat everyone, not just your beloved. I have found true love, and you can find it too. The discovery is on your part now. Love is not self-seeking nor self-serving; it is self-sacrifice. True love isn’t so much what you receive; it’s what you give. Selfless.

Margaret is an aspiring local writer who wants to bring the values of the past into the life of the present. You can reach her for feedback by emailing