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“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:7

Let’s talk about love.

Our celebration of love on this Valentine’s Day must go beyond couples and courtship, Hallmark cards and sentiment.

While love is a word with many meanings — you can love (or not) green beans, you can love your children, your parents, and your spouse or partner, your country, your God — but ultimately, love is not a word.

It is a choice. It is an act — an act of will not predicated on someone else’s behavior but on our decision to bestow it regardless of whether it is deserved. That love is not self-seeking or self-serving.

The most familiar example of such love is Jesus’ command recounted in Matthew 5:43-44 during the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Such love is a precious gift that heals wounds, restores broken people and broken relationships.

It is this love that is neglected and even derided today. Yet it is the love that is desperately needed.

The place to start to offer such love is here in Joplin, within our community.

There are many ways to show love that goes beyond flowers, chocolates or jewelry.

Start with simple kindness in keeping with the golden rule — “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Volunteering with any of the nonprofits that help others is sharing love, whether building a house with Habitat for Humanity, helping someone to improve literacy with Joplin NALA Read, helping to feed the hungry with Crosslines or volunteering with any of the organizations that provide opportunities to love your neighbor.

Good stewardship is an act of love. We can care for our shared spaces, for wildlife, for the air, the land and the water of our Ozarks. Even something as simple as adopting a rescued dog or cat is a gift of love.

Love is bolstered more by significant shared experiences than by gifts given. Take the time today for a gentle word or an extra moment to listen. Take an extra breath and offer a kind word rather than voicing irritation. Small moments add up.

Valentine’s Day honors love. But we have the opportunity to show love in each moment.

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