Contributed photo/Laura Ockel

What Valentine’s Day means to us this year | Reporter’s Notebook

Valentine’s Day is traditionally thought of as a holiday to celebrate romantic relationships. When you ask someone who they love, they typically respond with: significant others, friends, family and pets.

This year, I encourage everyone to think outside of the box and consider expanding your compassion beyond your tribe of familiars, and try to love someone who is very different from you.

There is a growing divide between people in our country and at the center of the divide lies two conflicting emotions: love and hate. Both of these emotions are fueled by passion, but can cause very different views of the world.

In this world, we need more love and less hate.

I propose everyone attempt to be more compassionate this Valentine’s Day – and every day beyond. Let’s put away our petty differences and stop trying to change people into something they’re not.

A recent move by our current administration blocked an entire nation of refugees from being allowed into our country. Part of our country’s population thought this was a good thing. That is heartbreaking to me. People attempting to legally enter our country were turned away because of a phobia that has been grossly overblown.

We need to open our arms and embrace refugees from countries torn apart by war. Some of these refugees were removed from their homes by the very same terrorist group that our country is trying to eliminate. After all, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Women, children and entire families who had been displaced by the destruction of their cities were being turned away from our country. This nation was built by refugees. Let’s open our hearts, love our neighbors and remember we’re all in this together.

As an inscription on a bronze plate at the base of the Statue of Liberty says:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” – Emma Lazarus