Recently a friend asked me for Valentine’s Day suggestions for a weekend on the Vineyard. I knew she was looking for restaurants and gift ideas. Instead, I sent her four love stories which led to suggestions for showing love on the Island in ways that are not traditional.

Every summer morning en route to camp on the Upper West Side of Manhattan my mother, sister and I would pass a group of homeless people keeping warm by congregating on the large grates in front of the Eighth avenue side of Madison Square Garden.

My mother always said good morning to everyone there. One man stuck out from the rest of the crowd. As he packed his belongings into a bag to get ready for his day, he always spoke to us in a gruff voice.

Then one morning I heard him say good morning to my mother in a voice that sang out happily. He even called my sister and me little princesses. I was shocked.

Later that evening my mother asked me if I had noticed something different about the people on the grate. I thought really hard. Yes, there had been a difference. A woman was with the gruff-voiced man.

My mother told me that the woman was his girlfriend or maybe his wife.

“But he’s homeless,” I said. “How did he get a girlfriend or a wife?”

My mother said that before I started commuting with her the gruff-voiced man and his girlfriend had always been together on the grate. My mother could tell by their mannerisms that they were new to the street.

“Many people are just a paycheck or a mishap away from being homeless,” she said.

My mother thought the woman’s presence gave the man joy and most likely hope too. A few days before my sister and I began going to camp, the woman had stopped coming around and the man began to look more and more distraught and disheveled.

“This morning the woman arrived back into his life,” my mother said. “What you heard in his voice was love and love is everywhere. It is not reserved for the rich or for people who in live in homes. Everyone deserves to be loved and to have love in their lives.”

A friend was served her divorce papers on Valentine’s Day. Vowing never to love again, my friend retreated into a world of single isolation until a coworker asked her out to lunch. The coworker listened and helped her find peace in her situation. A year later that simple lunch conversation gave my friend the courage to fall in love again. She is now in an 11-year relationship that is still going strong.

My friend looked at his brother’s anguished face and knew that offering his kidney to his sister-in-law who had gone into renal failure during the honeymoon was the right thing to do. He stepped forward and gave his kidney in love and compassion.

My friend’s parents met in college. She was a New Yorker and he was a son of the windy city. They went to the town hall in the middle of their second semester of college and were secretly married. Then he went back home where he lived with his parents and she went back to her dorm. No one knew about the marriage until a reporter assigned to cover weddings skimmed the city hall records and published the couple’s names. The bridegroom’s mother learned of the wedding when her friend called to wish her congratulations. Neither set of parents was happy.

But the couple endured, raised two children, enjoyed successful careers and just celebrated their 43rd year of marriage.

Before I gave these stories to my friend I sent a draft to my father. He told me they were too heavy for the holiday. He reminded me of a small handkerchief with embroidered hearts he gave me as a child, flowers given to my mother and candy to my sister on Valentine’s Day.

The joy he saw on our faces was our loving gift to him. “Nothing is wrong with light and fluffy,” he said.

My father has a point. Light and fluffy is great. However, to focus only on the light and fluffy does a disservice to Valentine’s Day by limiting its potential. After all, love is as complex and mysterious as life itself.

And so in this spirit, while pondering my friend’s request for Valentine’s Day recommendations and remembering these stories, I began to think of ideas to help those who might be at odds with love.

For example, this Valentine’s Day you could volunteer with Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Habitat for Humanity or Island Affordable Housing and help support an Island family in need. Or you could take someone in crisis out to lunch or coffee and just listen and offer a compassionate shoulder to cry on.

Signing up for a donor’s card or being tested as a possible bone marrow donor is another way to show love. So is modeling love and a healthy relationship for others, perhaps by becoming a scout leader or helping at the Martha’s Vineyard Boys’ and Girls’ Club.

As a nod to my father, I also gave my friend a few more traditional suggestions about what to do for Valentine’s Day on the Island. After all, every relationship can benefit from a night out holding hands too.

Sharon-Frances Moore lives in Vineyard Haven.