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When January turns into February, our thoughts are filled with showing those we love how much we care about them. We do that with cards, candy, flowers, and many other tokens of affection. Often, we are so focused on our loved ones that we tend to forget about others who may not experience that kind of affection.

Several years ago, when I was working with a domestic violence shelter for women and children, a gentleman approached me and presented me with a bag of toiletries he wanted to donate to the residents. Then he stated that he would like to buy flowers for each woman in our facility for Valentine’s Day. I thanked him profusely letting him know that for some of our ladies, this might be the only time they have ever been given flowers on Valentine’s Day or any other day for that matter.

You see, the women who reside in domestic violence shelters have not been shown love in appropriate ways. Their experiences with love are very different. Their domestic partners often show “love” by controlling their lives and pushing or hitting them to gain their submission. That certainly is not love, but it is all they know.

Interpersonal violence is all about power and control. That is how abusers show their kind of “love.” They might give their partners flowers after they have beaten them as that is what they do to apologize for their behavior. It is referred to as the “honeymoon” phase. I mistreat you and then I apologize and promise never to do it again; but I will anyway.

As parents, we try to instill values and qualities in our children including empathy for others. This generates an appreciation in children for what they have and makes them aware of others in the world who are not as fortunate. These are qualities children are not born with so parents must model them.

This February, as you select the gifts for your loved ones and show kindness to your colleagues and friends, take a moment to think of a way you might spread a little kindness to someone in need. Your family could discuss community agencies and how they might show kindness to those served by that agency. Then contact the agency to make sure they allow for specific donations, etc.

Senior centers are another area for giving and kindness. Many times, residents either do not have family or their family does not come to visit them. Your family might choose to ask to visit residents or drop off candy and flowers to them. If you have a dog and the agency allows it, you might bring your dog to visit with residents outside so they can pet them.

There are many ways to show kindness and it need not cost a thing. Just try smiling at folks you pass on the street or leave an extra tip for the waitress or waiter when you are dining out. Send a handwritten card to your dentist or other professional service person. Some might say, “I pay them for their service.” That may be true but imagine how they would feel getting that personalized thank-you from you.

This Valentine’s Day try something different. We all know it is better to give than receive. You’ll feel better and your children will begin to see the value in kindness to others. You never know whose life you might change with just a little kindness along the way. You might even realize it is helping you as well!

Mary Migliaro is an educator, parenting mentor and consultant who lives in Cherokee County.

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