Throughout the month of February we commonly will hear much disillusionment about Valentine's Day and its commercialism. In its narrow interpretation this day has become one that excludes all but those involved in a romantic relationship. Yet according to many of our Latin American neighbors, this day is not simply about romance, but rather about expressing appreciation for others. "Dia del Amor y la Amistad" literally translates into a day of love and friendship. Guatemalans refer to this day as the "day of the affection" and it is commonly celebrated with acts of appreciation for friends and loved ones. This perspective invites our acknowledgement of many types of love that all of us participate in, a more expansive and inclusive notion about "deep and tender feelings for others." We would like to challenge all of us to reclaim this month of love by broadening our perspective and becoming intentional in the expressing of our affections in this more comprehensive fashion.

During each week of February we are suggesting that we adopt a specific emphasis for our expressions of appreciation:

Week 1: Honoring History - Recall an individual from your personal history who has made a significant contribution to your life. What do you most appreciate about the manner in which they have lived their life? How did they positively impact your life? How might your life be different without their influence? The thoughts of this individual can be held throughout the week to honor them within your own heart. If possible, a verbal or written expression of gratitude to this person or to their family members could be shared. Our history is reflective of the power of love in our lives. What a better month to celebrate its impact!

Week2: Honoring the Invisible - We are surrounded by people who are often overlooked, minimalized, lonely, or forgotten. Who comes to your mind as you read these words? How might you extend yourself in some small way toward this person during this week? What small gesture of acknowledgement might you offer to indicate your awareness and appreciation for them? Reflect on the struggle to extend yourself and the feelings evoked upon completion of this challenge to honor the invisible.

Week 3: Honoring the Cherished - Select someone in your life today that "feeds your soul" in meaningful ways. Make time this week to call or visit this person and express your joy for having him or her in your life. Recall the events which brought you into one another's lives and celebrate your good fortune for having crossed paths. Make a mental note of the attributes you most appreciate in them.

Week 4: Honoring the Self - That's is time to celebrate loving yourself! Spend a minimum of two hours this week doing something just for you. This has to be based strictly on "want to" and not "need to, ought to, or have to!" See your follow-through as a gift of love offered to yourself. How difficult was it to complete this assignment? Only after loving our self can we share fully with another.

So here is to our intentional living into a more expansive experience with Valentine's month. May we celebrate the countless expressions of love in our life, and may we take these 28 days to become more mindful in sharing our gratitude to those whose touch has uplifted us.