“Appreciation is a wonderful thing.
It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
We’ve all done it: sat in the church or funeral home listening to someone recount the accolades of the person who has just died. They were a wonderful mother or father or sister or brother. Maybe they were a wonderful aunt or uncle. The best stories are those from some unassuming co-worker or stranger who crossed paths with the person. It’s inspirational, isn’t it, to hear all of the good things a person did that we never knew? Often, it seems to make us want to be a little better. That is why I like Voltaire’s reminder to appreciate what is excellent in others so that we might take on a little of that excellence ourselves.
When my father-in-law died several years ago, we (family) stood for hours as people came through to offer their condolences and in many cases their stories of things he had done for them. In my own father’s absence, I’ve learned of kindnesses he showed people, and I’ve taken great pride in knowing he was as good a person as I thought he was. It has really concerned me, though, that like many wonderful artists and writers, their good deeds are celebrated posthumously. Maybe there should be a movement to appreciate people, in the same vein that random acts of kindness have become a treasured choice.
At my high school graduation, I was surprised to be awarded the Principal’s Award. While I felt invisible before that, the honor left me knowing that my choices and actions were not unnoticed. Sometimes, we want to do our good deeds quietly and unseen, but every now and then it is nice to be appreciated, it is nice for someone to notice our efforts. Notes I’ve received through the years are kept on a hoop, allowing me to remind myself of thoughtful people and words. That seems to be exactly what Voltaire meant, as their excellence inspires me to be better.
Thinking of stories you’ve heard, what has stood out? For me, it’s how humble the person was in doing whatever they did. I didn’t know until my father was gone how he had passed a woman without shoes and returned to where she was a bit later with shoes for her. I am so inspired by his kindness. It isn’t the exceptional stories, though, that I’m hoping we will honor. It is our appreciating the simple kindnesses of those whose presence has bettered our lives.
Who do you appreciate? Start in your home — people do things we don’t even think about because we think it’s their responsibility. Thank the person who cooked the meal, who walked the dog, who folded the laundry, who filled your car up with gas when they saw it was empty. At the grocery store, offer thanks to the lady who is stocking the shelves or who takes the time to tell you what the best deal for your money is. The people who clean the offices you work in each day, the fella or lady who gets your computer working when you have a deadline looming and nothing is going your way — all of these people are deserving of your and my appreciation.
The truth is that wherever we go in our day, there is someone who could use a “Thank You,” whether they get paid for helping us or not. It seems like such a simple challenge I offer, but taking a moment to appreciate kind gestures and words seems to be more trouble than many of us will find time to allow.
May you see opportunities to speak to those surrounding you, offer words of appreciation for those who might otherwise hear silence, and may you and I appreciate what is excellent in others so that it might belong to us as well.