My hand started shaking as I stared at the blank slip of paper on the table.

"Insert message here," it said. After staring at the sheet for what seemed like an hour, I wrote something like, "I think you're awesome! Happy Valentine’s Day!"

Back then, we didn’t have FaceTime or the fancy doodads the kids have now. We resorted to notebook paper, store-bought cards, or the Student Council Board to help us with Valentine’s Day related activities, such as the traditional carnations and messages.

You could purchase carnations for $1.50 in the high school cafeteria. With the high school Pop Chorus (a choir group strictly for seniors), you could send a singing telegram to a recipient, which included a box of chocolates or candy .

The small message to my friend landed in the Valentine’s Day section of the school newspaper. Years later, I started writing again, but this time during my freshman year of college. I addressed them to my future husband.

We all have a preference for Valentine's Day gifts. Giving chocolate has been around since the 1800s. The first heart-shaped box of chocolate was produced by Richard Cadbury in 1861. It served two purposes, not only to store chocolate and increase sales, but also a place where people could keep mementos, such as locks of hair or love letters.

The tradition of giving flowers on Valentine's Day started with Charles II of Sweden in the 18th century. It was an old-fashioned custom to send floral bouquets as a way of delivering non-verbal messages. Each flower symbolized something.

You can never go wrong with chocolates and flowers, but it's not everyone's cup of tea. A friend of mine told me she's not a fan of stuffed animals, but prefers unique and essential items that she can use every day.

"It doesn't have to be much, maybe a multi-tool kit that I can use to fix my light fixtures or cabinets," she said.

I think I stopped making homemade cards and personalized gifts in ninth grade, after reading an article on the internet discouraging those type of gifts for special occasions. It seemed like a harsh critic, but I kept in mind.

Nowadays, handmade and personalized gifts have grown in popularity. Even on Valentine's Day, people favor more personalized gifts. My editor said, "I like gifts that come from the heart. It means a lot more to me because they really thought it out." 

Some like handcrafted tables for the kitchen, others like edible chocolate bouquets. For me, I'm content with a romantic dinner, meaningful gifts and of course… a letter.

I still have letters from when I served as a housekeeper in 2014 from guests. I have notes from friends who I corresponded with via mail. I have cards from residents in Webster County. Words mean a lot to me and it’s one of my top love languages (words of affirmation), but I'm also a firm believer in acts of service and quality time.

That aside, love isn't something we should show strictly on Valentine's Day. It’s an action, a choice we need to make every day. God extends that love to us, even in our brokenness and failures.

We don't have to break the bank to make someone feel special. We can send letter, volunteer at a food pantry, or help a neighbor in need. Despite our differences, we can extend love and kindness to those around us.

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