Sunday, Feb. 14, is Valentine's Day in America.
To mark the occasion, many Americans will spend big bucks on chocolates and other candy. But in a New York pizza parlor, a young woman named Christy explains that her high school boyfriend has other ways of letting her know he cares. "Like remembering that I don't like chocolate, first of all, and that I like flowers, but not roses."
Just outside, on this cold February evening, a homeless man named Mathew is happily aware of this romantic holiday, even as he shivers and solicits change from passersby. "It's the spirit of Valentine's Day, the love and the affection and the warmth that people have to offer."
When asked what he loves most on this special day Mathew is quick to answer. "Maybe a Valentine's gift, a nice hug, kiss, a special kiss that's very profound. And its warming, you know," he laughs.
Down the street, Mary Ellen also pairs love with warmth, especially in its liquid form. "It's the first cup of coffee on the dresser when you are in the shower and it's warming up the car before you get into it on a wintry morning," says Mary Ellen. "It's spontaneous thoughtfulness that really touches the heart, that sympathetic connection that makes you feel cherished."
One man, who did not give his name, has been single for a long time. But he is clear about what he would cherish in a future partner.
"Just feeling there was somebody who I could unite with, somebody to share joys and sorrows with." He says he appreciates everyday intimacies. "A few words exchanged or small things shared very simply. It could be just having breakfast together or just walking together for a few blocks. It could anything."
In a nearby restaurant, a police cadet named Amanda cherishes laughter with her love. "The thing that makes me loved the most is when [my friends] trust me enough to make terrible, terrible jokes -- whether they are just bad, or don't make any sense, or are really offensive -- and they know that I get, at least, where they are coming from. So the relationship basically turns into a bunch of inside jokes that nobody else gets."
Indeed, for Amanda, it seems to be sharing something personal with another that no one else shares. "When you have your own secret language, that's what makes it magic," she says.
For Julia, who is sitting at a nearby table, the magic often happens when life itself seems un-magical. "I know somebody loves me is when I'm sick and I look terrible and that person is right next to me telling me I look beautiful (while) holding up my hair when I am puking my brains out in the toilet." She adds that while such devotion may not always cure her stomach pains "it makes me feel loved and like somebody in the world out there cares."
For Wassim, love for his wife is all inclusive. He embraces everything about their family life.
The words "love and care" seems to sum up Wassim's home life this Valentine's Day. He takes a moment between sales and grinding coffee to reflect on his wife and small children.
"Just knowing they are there, is enough for me to know that they love me. They are my life." When asked to mention one thing in particular, his wife does that telegraphs that message, Wassim balks. "I don't have one thing. Everything she does is what makes me feel special about her. When she is home and waits for me and makes the food and everybody sits at the table, that's love."
Love is an overused word in some circles, but for Wassim, it still holds terrific power. "When you say to somebody 'I love you,' it includes everything in your life."