Sometimes, all it takes is one gesture of appreciation
For the past two weeks I’ve been suffering some serious migraine attacks, and even though I have been taking anti-migraines, they seemed not to want to work. It is for this reason I found myself at home for the better part of the week, nursing my head.
I’d like to think we live in a very quiet neighborhood in the sense that during the day, unless its dogs barking or birds chirping or cows mowing, you won’t hear any other kind of noise. It therefore goes without saying that it is the best environment for anyone who wants to sleep during the day. It is for this reason I was surprised when I was woken up from my late morning sleep by a woman who seemed to be so pissed off about something, that she was screaming instead of talking.
My goodness! I can still hear her high-pitched voice in my head as I write this. From what I could hear of that conversation, she must have been talking to her live-in boyfriend who seemed to be doing so many things wrong, such as not appreciating her, rationing his expression of love for her, being selfish in bed and a whole load of other things. Of course I couldn’t see her since she was doing all this screaming from her house, but from the tone of her voice and the 1000 words per second she was spewing out of her system, it was pretty evident that she was one bitter woman. She was hurting and feeling used by the man, and like the saying goes, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Hers came out in the form of scream-talking.
This incident reminded me of a story I read a long time ago on the Internet; you know one of those stories you stumble upon on the net and never forget years on? Well, this story definitely falls under that category. I’d like to share it with you, hoping it will have the same effect on you it did on me then, and it still has on me now....
A teacher in New York decided to honor each of her seniors in high school by telling them the difference they each made. Using a process developed by Helice Bridges of Del Mar, California, she called each student to the front of the class, one at a time. First she told each student how he or she made a difference to her and the class. Then she presented each of them with a blue ribbon imprinted with gold letters which read, "Who I Am Makes a Difference."
Afterwards the teacher decided to do a class project to see what kind of impact recognition would have on a community. She gave each of the students three more ribbons and instructed them to go out and spread this acknowledgment ceremony. Then they were to follow up on the results, see who honored whom and report back to the class in about a week. One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive in a nearby company and honored him for helping him with his career planning. He gave him a blue ribbon and put it on his shirt. Then he gave him two extra ribbons, and said, "We're doing a class project on recognition, and we'd like you to go out, find somebody to honor, give them a blue ribbon, then give them the extra blue ribbon so they can acknowledge a third person to keep this acknowledgment ceremony going. Then please report back to me and tell me what happened."
Later that day the junior executive went in to see his boss, who had been noted, by the way, as being kind of a grouchy fellow. He sat his boss down and he told him that he deeply admired him for being a creative genius. The boss seemed very surprised. The junior executive asked him if he would accept the gift of the blue ribbon and would he give him permission to put it on him. His surprised boss said, "Well, sure." The junior executive took the blue ribbon and placed it right on his boss's jacket above his heart. As he gave him the last extra ribbon, he said, "Would you do me a favor? Would you take this extra ribbon and pass it on by honoring somebody else? The young boy who first gave me the ribbons is doing a project in school and we want to keep this recognition ceremony going and find out how it affects people."
That night the boss came home to his 14-year-old son and sat him down. He said, "The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office and one of the junior executives came in and told me he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine. He thinks I'm a creative genius. Then he put this blue ribbon that says 'Who I Am Makes A Difference' on my jacket above my heart. He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honor. As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honor with this ribbon and I thought about you. I want to honor you. My days are really hectic and when I come home I don't pay a lot of attention to you. Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You're a great kid and I love you!"
The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn't stop crying. His whole body shook. He looked up at his father and said through his tears, "I was planning on committing suicide tomorrow, Dad, because I didn't think you loved me. Now I don't need to."
This story still makes my eyes misty every time I read it. Many are the times we take those close to us for granted. We assume they know we love and appreciate them. We assume that our presence in their lives is enough affirmation that we recognize them and appreciate them. If there is anything that we can learn from this young boy whose life was saved at the11th hour, it is the fact that we all need constant affirmation of love and appreciation.
Indeed this story brings to life the quote by Margaret Cousins that says, “Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”
I may not have three blue ribbons to give you today, but you can create your own ribbons by surprising someone today and meaningfully tell them how much they mean to you, and how much you care about them. Let’s not even go far; if you are married, how about you start with your spouse? When was the last time you told him/her that you love them? When was the last time you even bought a gift, (even if it’s a handkerchief) as a sign that you are thinking about them?
Try it this week (but don’t stop after the week is over) and share your experience with me via the contacts given here below. I wish you all an appreciative week.
PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 17th June, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"