IT'S SUNDAY MORNING... and our word for the day is *appreciation*. It is listed as Way 5 in my small (now out of print) book "What Saved Me" (2000, under pen name, Clair Starr). I thought it might be good to place this short essay and thoughts on appreciation with the start of the holiday season and all the good and bad it brings out in us human beings.
Way 5: Appreciation
The ability to fully appreciate the good in our lives is necessary for the person doing the appreciation and the person receiving it. “You don’t appreciate me!” a wife cries to her distant husband. “You don’t appreciate how hard I work,” the husband tells his wife. “You don’t appreciate how easy you’ve got it,” parents tell their children. It hurts … it hurts to feel unappreciated. The feeling of it leads to all sorts of paths:anger, resentfulness, apathy… But, accepting our inability to control other’s reactions, let’s concentrate on our own sense of appreciation.
My father would visit with the only friend from his childhood I had ever met, Paul. Paul was crippled and poor. My father took time out of his busy life to maintain this friendship. Paul, I later grew to realize, was the same friend whose toys were once given to my dad. Yes, times change, circumstances change and everything is relative.
Houses that seemed large when we were children and called them “home,” look small and cramped when we visit them years later. Photos of us when we were younger and felt fat and unattractive look remarkably good to us twenty years later. High school seniors who seemed so grown up when we were fourteen look like the young people they are when we are forty-five.
The way of appreciation requires us to see things as they are, as they might have been (or worse) and as they compare to others. (Let’s call this the “Grandma Approach,” as in “At least you’re not bald … don’t have arthritis … have your own teeth … etc.”)
Appreciation demands that we live in the present because we have to pay attention to what is to see it — really see it. When someone feels unappreciated, perhaps they really feel unnoticed. Feeling invisible is disheartening. Look at those close to you. Pay attention to what they are doing. Think about the efforts it takes for them to do their activities. Think about what it is like to be them and recognize that most people try their best and deserve the appreciation of those close to them.
“I don’t need anyone to tell me I’m doing a good job. I’m secure.” Well, bully for you, nice going. But most of us do need a little appreciation from time to time, and if we have to ask for it at work or at home then something is lost in the asking.
Make it a point to offer a word of appreciation to one person every day:“Thank you for being so attentive to our meal,”might be offered to the server at a restaurant during your next meal out. Thank the mail carrier who delivers in subzero (or over-ninety-degree) weather. Thank the high school teacher who encouraged you. Thank the one who holds your hand when you are upset, who hands you a tool when you’re at the top of a ladder, who travels far to see you, loans you money, asks about your child …
There is no limit to the opportunities around you to look closely, pay attention and appreciate the good in your life.
Photograph of Woodrow Phelps and Janice Phelps