Valentine's Day has always been a Hallmark holiday, but the trend toward buying gifts rather than demonstrating love seems to get worse every year. Expect a cheap card or a chocolate-covered heart if you're dating or married to a real miser. If you're with a generous romantic, you can look forward to a new car or--if you're really lucky--your own Internet IPO.

I have a different idea. This Valentine's Day, give your boyfriend or girlfriend, your husband or wife, the greatest gift of all: the gift of yourself. Cordon off an entire day, free yourself of all distraction and worry, and give yourself completely to the person you love.

Certainly, this idea will appeal to all you cheapskates out there. But it will also appeal to romantics, because the reason we go into relationships in the first place is to have someone who really needs us and to share ourselves with someone who appreciates us.

So this Valentine's Day, turn up at your girlfriend's apartment, all wrapped up in a beautiful bow, and say: "Here it is: your Valentine's gift. Me. I've turned off the computer, told my boss to get lost, deflated the rubber doll, and thrown away the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. For the next 24 hours, I'm yours. No distractions. No answering the cell phone. No watching football. No going to Hooters and asking the waitresses to pick up the change off the floor."

Her first reaction will be to look confused. What do you mean you're my present? She'll start checking your upper torso for hidden earrings. When she finds nothing, she may slam the door on you, never to be seen again. But a more likely scenario will have her saying, "I don't get it. Where's my Valentine's Day? You didn't forget, did you?"

It's at this point that you can look her straight in the eye and say, "It's me. Don't you get it? Your present is me. I've decided to give myself fully to you today. I'm not going to do anything without you."

The idea of giving ourselves to one another as the ultimate gift sounds odd to a generation that routinely substitutes objects for people. We're far too busy to grant ourselves to one another fully, so we give gifts instead. We do it with our children, we do it with our parents, and we do it with our lovers.

But relationships are built on sacred moments--on shared experiences, on having something to look forward to together. This is the idea behind the Sabbath. Throughout the week, we tend to put the urgent before the important. We know that our husbands, wives, and kids are the most important things in the world. Yet, we put job, sports, exercise, travel--even our pets--before them. The result is that couples today rarely experience sacred moments together. After a while, the relationship becomes completely functional.

That's why once a week you have to have a Sabbath together, a 24-hour period during which there simply is nothing urgent. There's only the important. The phone goes off, the television can't be turned on, and a wife isn't competing for her husband's attention with "Monday Night Football."

So many of us are afraid to give each other the gift of ourselves. We rob our relationships of sacred moments, and we compensate by accessorizing. Here, honey, I'm either too busy or too scared to give you myself. So I bought this autographed campaign poster of Richard Nixon instead.

We're a generation that values space more than time, property over people. We therefore determine that a gift must come in the form of something you can touch, lift, embrace, and ultimately discard.

But the best gift we can give each other is the gift of time--those precious, special, eternal moments. So try it this Valentine's Day. Reverse the destructive pattern of hiding behind ephemeral objects. Rather than giving your loved one another chocolate heart, give the real thing. And bring your souls to life.

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