In a world of empty words, simple acts of love always win.


“How do I love thee, let me count the ways.” When poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote these lines, she counted seven ways in her verse. Little did she know back in 1850 when the poem was written that she had merely scratched the surface. These days we seem to "love" everything.

The latest fashion? Love! The newest blockbuster movie: “Loved it!!!!!!”. Our friends post a picture of what they had for dinner? We double-tap. But does that heart actually beat? Does it actually symbolize love any longer?

How did we let “love” become as cheap and easy to throw about like any other four-letter word? Oddly, it has a lot to do with how we’ve grown to celebrate February 14.

Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer from the Beekman 1802 Company
Beekman 1802 founders Dr. Brent Ridge (left) and Josh Kilmer-Purcell.
| Credit: Courtesy of Beekman 1802

Valentine’s Day is often derided as a "Hallmark holiday," implying that commerce has overtaken the original sentiment. We buy a gift or a card because we are told we need to rather than because we want to. The gifts we tend to buy to mark the day always seem to be of the temporary or disposable variety—fleeting novelties of affection.

Love deserves more than that.

Don’t get me wrong. A day that reminds us to take a moment to tell someone we love them is a very good thing. Life goes so fast these days that we often don’t take the time, but given the commoditization of “love," maybe there are more meaningful ways to express the emotion. Or perhaps we need to recognize love in the unspoken ways in which we receive it every single day and not place so much emphasis on a single word or one 24-hour period.

That’s exactly what we’ve done.

Beekman 1802 building storefront
The Beekman 1802 Mercantile in Sharon Springs, New York.
| Credit: Courtesy of Beekman 1802

Our company, Beekman 1802, started 10 years ago. My partner, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and I had both lost our jobs during the Great Recession and took the opportunity to change the direction of our lives. We moved to a small farming village in upstate New York and started fresh. We first asked our neighbors how to do the most mundane tasks of country living like when to plant the garlic or who was the best handyman in town. Before long we graduated to more complex questions about raising chickens, pigs, and goats—and making soaps and cheeses.

We then started working with our neighbors to create artisan food, and beauty and home products for what was then a small little mercantile on the main street of Sharon Springs, New York. In those early days, we could barely afford to heat the house. We operated on a barter system. We paid people in kindness.

At that time, we were strangers in this community. It would have been awkward to say, “I love you.” But our neighbors could surely see the sentiment written all over our grateful faces.

As Beekman 1802 has morphed into a world-renowned beauty company, we still call all of our customers “Neighbors,” and we still believe that kindness is an active ingredient in every single thing we make. Sure, people might “love” our latest formulation or fragrance, but most importantly they appreciate our philosophy that beauty is not just how kindly and gently you treat yourself and your skin, but also how kindly and gently we treat one another.

This Valentine’s Day, don’t be afraid to say “I love you.” But don’t feel like you have to. Also don’t feel badly if you don’t hear those exact words yourself. Because there are many, many ways to express love.

Sometimes it sounds like:

Did you get enough to eat?

Call me when you get there.

I can help you with that.

In fact, if you take a moment this Valentine’s Day and think of all the little acts of kindness bestowed upon you today, you’ll feel the love in a way that is virtually innumerable and unmeasurable.

And that is something you can count on.


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