What the world needs now is love…

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 16, 2002

Since this column appears just one day shy of "le jour d'amour" I sincerely hope everybody out there has made arrangements to honor their sweethearts.

I realize that certain occasions

anniversaries and birthdays, for example

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can easily creep up on the holiday-challenged (generally speaking, the male members of our population

sorry, guys).

If you haven't noticed the many strategically placed displays of heart-shaped balloons, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, heart motif jewelry, cute stuffed heart-hugging bears and hearts and flowers' cards everywhere, along with the radio and print ads, well, you need to open your eyes and ears. It's almost Valentine's Day!

While diamonds may be

forever', our own shallow pockets may come up short on the readies' as the Brits say.

We all can't afford a dozen or two bouquets of lovely roses, a black velvet box filled with sparkling precious gemstones or a fancy intimate dinner by candlelight for two.

Our celebration may be more along the lines of opting for the super-sized' meal at a local fast food spot and tossing in a

$1 box of chocolate-covered cherries for dessert.

What makes it a real holiday celebration is often the less tangible gifts we give to those we love, the sort you can't pick up off a shelf or order over the phone.

You don't need a credit card or cash in your pocket for these love gifts' and it's guaranteed these items'

unlike, say, the fuzzy, neon-colored musical love' gorilla or giant box of sticky gooey nutty dream pralines

will always suit the recipient's taste, waist and budget.

My thanks go to seminar speaker Dr. Steve Stephens for inspiring me with these great gift ideas. (Note these work equally well for spouses, sweethearts and friendsafter all, your spouse or sweetie should be your great pal, too).

Great love gifts:

Give the gift of LAUGHTER.

Never forget how good it feels to laugh, be silly and have fun together. Playtime is not just for the youngsters, you know.

Give the gift of ENCOURAGEMENT.

Look for opportunities to build up your spouse. Pay at least one compliment very day to the one you love.

Give the gift of RESPECT.

Treat that person with respect and courtesy by what you say and what you do in public and private. (As a by-product you'll teach a wonderful lesson to your children.)

Give the gift of FORGIVENESS.

Yes, forgive and forget

and don't keep throwing past mistakes up into their face.

Move on to better things.

Give the gift of GENEROSITY.

Share your time, conversation, memories, possessions-the tangible and intangible.

Give the gift of SHARING.

Talk about your hopes, dreams and fears-share your heart.

Give the gift of CARE.

Give that person a generous dose of TLC and watch them blossom.

Give the gift of ATTENTION.

Put down the newspaper, turn off the TV or radio and tune in to what he or she is saying…and take it seriously.

Give the gift of HUMILITY.

Hey, you're not perfect.

Sometimes you mess up.

Be willing to admit it.

Be able to say "I'm sorry" and be ready to change areas that need changing in your life.

And last (but hardly least) give the gift of COMMITMENT.

Be ready to stand beside the one you love through think and thin, wealth and poverty, sickness and health, good times and bad.

God bless and have a happy Valentine's day!