Not every culture celebrates Valentine’s Day, and those that do can celebrate differently. I’ve even spent my fair share of Valentine’s Days alone, as I wrote about a couple of years ago here. When I think about love, of course I immediately think about my husband and my family, but I also think about loving our neighbors. When I was driving to the commissary a few days ago, in the rain, I had a quick flashback of a scene right before leaving D.C. that reminded me how important it is to love one another.

I had just picked up my daughter from school and we needed to make a stop at the commissary when it started pouring rain from nowhere. I mean buckets! Not to be deterred in my quest to grab the coffee creamer that would be essential to starting the next day before o’dark-thirty, I begrudgingly pulled into the parking lot and started to mentally prepare myself for the mad dash of unbuckling the little one from the car and carrying her through the puddles so we could seek the shelter of the building’s awning even faster. As I opened my car door and reached for hers, a man with a single umbrella was swiftly by my side saying “I’ve got you, c’mon.”

I looked at him and his one umbrella he was holding over my head, grabbed Alex in my left arm between us, and wrapped my right arm across my body and his. I jokingly said “you better get under here too” with an appreciative smile. We moved like an amoeba across the parking lot. Two people – one man, one woman; one younger, one older; one white, one black; one dressed from the office, the other in scrubs and boots – united under one umbrella, one act of kindness. We reached the awning of the building quickly where I gave him one more tight squeeze and thanks before stepping back to look him in the eye. I opened my mouth to ask him his name, but his eyes rested behind me, at another person braving the parking lot without an umbrella. “Gotta go, I can’t let you ladies get caught in this” he said, and he was off again just as fast as he had appeared.

Sitting in the rain at the commissary just a few days ago, bracing myself to jump out of the car and make the mad dash to the door, I remembered the kind stranger and smiled to myself. I couldn’t help but compare it to being here in another country where I meet strangers every single day. Every time we go outside our base I am guaranteed to encounter a warm smile and someone genuinely helpful. How lucky are we to live in such a beautiful culture? It reminds me that we’re all in it together and if we are kind and love our neighbors, we will all have a reason to walk around with a smile on our face.

Not sure how to love your neighbor? There are several volunteer organizations both on and off base, and opportunities for random acts of kindness are everywhere. If you’re still not sure where to start, shopping at one of the local stores like the Marine Gift Shop is a great place to find treasures while doing good. It really is #AllForCharity!

Looking for a local organization to join and give back to our local community? Here are a few to get you started: