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The Globe and Mail

How can I make Valentine's Day more meaningful?

The question

I find Valentine's Day kind of cheesy. Is there any to make it more meaningful?

The answer

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In addition to all the fair-trade options for the flowers, chocolates and diamond earrings that are the material hallmarks of the day, we like to consider a broader context for the day of love. More than any day on the calendar, Feb. 14 creates a bitter division between two groups of Canadians: happily in love couples, and singles who would substitute "annoying" for "happily in love."

So, this week, we thought we would attempt to find some common ground on Valentine's Day by answering a question on the lips of many of those single Canadians: Do we really need to dedicate a whole day to love?

The answer, we believe, is yes. But we're arguing for a day on which we all bring a bit more love to the world in general, especially those who need it most.

In our family, Feb. 14 is our Grandma Mimi's birthday. If it's at all possible, we visit her in Windsor, Ont., to bring flowers and take her to the hairdresser, or provide some other treat to show our love. This year is her 98th, and her first with her great-granddaughter.

Mimi's challenges with Alzheimer's have meant that for the past few years, our visits have been at her retirement home. It's a very nice spot with kind and dedicated staff, but still it can be a sad place. Several of the residents mistake us for their grandkids, and sigh when they learn we're not.

Mother Teresa once said the most terrible poverty in the world is loneliness. It's also said February is the loneliest month, in the midst of the dark Canadian winter and with a special day dedicated to extolling the wonders of coupledom.

This isn't to be a downer on Valentine's Day; it's to spark a mini-movement to looking beyond romantic love. If you have it, awesome: Show your love to your dearest in the most creative and meaningful ways you can (ideally with less stuff and more love notes packed in lunches). But maybe we can each take a moment to "spread the love" by bringing some kindness and companionship to someone who needs it.

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We may know someone who has lost a loved one over the past year, for whom today is especially lonely. Family members, friends or neighbours who live alone may appreciate a phone call, a lunch date or a batch of muffins, just to know that they're noticed and cared for, that they're not alone. Even a simple smile and hello to someone you pass on the street would add warmth to a cold winter's day.

If "living better" means sometimes leaving our comfort zone, then Valentine's Day is an opportunity to reach beyond our regular circles of love and to make someone's day by letting them know we're thinking of them.

Craig and Marc Kielburger co-founded Free the Children.

Craig and Marc Kielburger co-founded Free the Children. Follow Craig at and @craigkielburger on Twitter. Send questions to .

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