A simple act of kindness can make every day Valentine's Day

I opened my computer today to find two advertisements about Valentine’s Day. One said, “Don’t disappoint the ones you love! Order your Valentine’s flowers today!” The second one said, “Have you made your Valentine’s dinner reservations yet? Do it NOW to show you care!”

Of course I don’t want to disappoint the ones I love. And, obviously, I want them to know I care. But I want that every day, not just a single day where we all compare who feels loved the most. Last year, my husband made me a beautiful card filled with words meant only for me. My friend’s husband spent a bundle on dinner downtown. My neighbor was surprised that his wife forgot about Valentine’s all together, but admitted that she showed her love for him every single day in dozens of ways.

His point got me thinking: Isn’t that what we want anyway? People who show us love or kindness throughout the year—not just on Valentine’s Day? I love hearing stories of people who have made an impact on others just by offering a simple gesture of kindness. A friend of mine shared this story about a small act of chivalry that she still thinks of today:

It was hot. And crowded. The bus system for Washington State University in Pullman, Washington in 2003 ran on time, picking up students who lived off campus. The start of the school year was underway and the late afternoon heat in the Palouse was stifling. By the time I had gotten onto the bus, it was standing room only. My heavy bag dug into my shoulder. My other hand awkwardly clutched the warm metal handhold. The sweaty smell of young adults was nauseating. I was hungry, needed more coffee, and had a lot of studying to do for my new classes.

When she sat down, she started to cry. The only thing she said, in a small voice, was “thank you.” I was in awe of how this simple gesture of giving up a seat could impact someone so meaningfully.

My mind was full of the outlines, homework, and other projects I needed to accomplish. I was not in the best of moods and the crowds were not helping. The bus made one last stop at the edge of campus. The students shuffled back to allow a newcomer on, bodies pressed into me.

I could see the lady who slowly stepped on. She looked frazzled, juggling multiple bags strapped to her body, and a large belly protruded in front of her. It was the Teacher’s Assistant from my Econ class. I immediately felt bad for her. All of my troubles seemed insignificant compared to the pregnant lady in a standing-room-only bus. She tried to protect her belly with one hand while desperately reaching for the high handhold. Students unavoidably bumped into her as the bus pulled into traffic.

“Stop! Please stop the bus!” a large booming voice said from behind me.

The bus driver pulled over. All of us standing almost toppled into each other as the driver asked over the intercom what was wrong.

“Here, lady in the front, please take my seat.” I turned to see one of the largest men I have ever laid eyes on stand up. His huge frame had to duck to not hit the top of the bus. Everyone standing made a path for her.

When she sat down, she started to cry. The only thing she said, in a small voice, was “thank you.” I was in awe of how this simple gesture of giving up a seat could impact someone so meaningfully.

To me, this is what Valentine’s should be. Another day to exhibit kindnesses, a day we are cognizant of the opportunities to bring joy to those around us, and a simple reminder that we should cherish those in our home and on our path.

AnnaMarie McHargue is the CEO of Words With Sisters and the author of People Are Good: 100 True Stories to Restore Your Faith in Humanity. She has been an editor for 32 years and lives in Idaho with her husband and three children.