This time of year, love is on people’s minds. You may be thinking a lot about your sweetie, or wishing you had a sweetie. But a romantic partner isn’t the only source of love in anyone’s life. This is a great season to reflect with gratitude on the love you’ve experienced, in every form.
Over the years, who have you loved—in any way? Who has shown you love? Think broadly. Maybe write down some names to honor those people and remind you of all the ways love has flowed through your life.
Your parents. Of course they weren’t perfect, and maybe they never said it—but they loved you.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives. Who was there for you? Who really saw you? Who made you feel loved?
Sisters, brothers, and cousins. You may have fought with them, especially when you were little; but siblings and cousins are the people you’re most likely to know throughout your life. They know the family stories; they knew you when.
Boyfriends, girlfriends, lovers, partners…starting with the kid you had a crush on in kindergarten. Each person we let into our heart in some way helps us grow in our understanding of love.
Childhood friends, especially the ones who helped you feel good about yourself or who were close to you for years.
Teachers, especially those who challenged you to do your best work and those who saw potential in you that others might have overlooked.
Pets and other animals that brought you joy and comfort.
Coaches, scout leaders, band leaders, or other adults who took an interest in you and supported you along the way.
Faith leaders or youth group leaders who treated you in a caring way.
Friends from high school, college, military service, work, and any other aspect of your life—the ones you connected with on a personal level. Some you may have been close to for a season, some for a lifetime.
Kind neighbors of any age, at any stage in your life. Mrs. Smith down the block who always had a cookie for you? The nice guy next door who checks in if he hasn’t seen you in a few days? The teenager who shovels your sidewalk while he’s out shoveling his? All are acting out of love.
Your children and grandchildren, if you have them. Raising children is an ongoing act of love—with some wonderful hugs and other forms of love flowing back to you.
There are as many ways to love as there are people in the world. Hold in your heart the love you’ve received over the years. Honor it. Let it flow into you, and through you. Whatever form love takes, it’s a wonderful thing.