I am finally wrapping up Staff Appreciation at Dude's school for this year. After months of planning lunches and treats for coffee break and making thank-you cards and center pieces we are done. I dropped off the last of the coffee break snacks about half an hour ago .. I'm done!
People comment from time to time on how 'thankful' I am and how much effort I put into appreciation and to tell you the truth, I am not a naturally thankful person. I have worked very hard to notice people and the things they do. I practice being appreciative with Mr. Awesome and with the kids. I make a conscious effort to tell people that I see them and appreciate what they do.
I started this for two reasons. When I was in high school I started volunteering on a team at church. The team leader was one of my mom's friends, someone I had known for years. It wasn't until I started working with her on a weekly basis that I noticed how often she said thank you and even more than that, how much she showed her appreciation for her team by respecting their time, ideas and talents. I also noticed that the people on her team were willing to work harder, stay later and were generally happier than most other teams volunteering there. I started studying her, learning from how she interacted with people and even now, years later, I often asked myself, 'What would Becky do?' when I'm puzzled by an interpersonal dilemma.
The second reason for my practice of appreciation comes from a lesson hard learned. Several yeas ago my friend's mother became very ill. This friend and I weren't super close but we had attended school and youth group together for several years and I had known her parents as very active members of our church community. I was always impressed by how giving and accepting her parents were and how much they loved each other, they were real partners in everything. I learned a lot from observing them over the years and I had always felt very grateful that they were part of the village that raised me.
When Mrs. W's health began to deteriorate, I really wanted to visit her or write her a note or something to tell her how much I appreciated and admired the way she lived her life. I wanted her to know that she made a difference to me ... but I didn't. I didn't want to intrude or force my way into her family's last weeks with her so I didn't say anything and she passed. She lived a full and marvelous life and was treasured by many, many people and I know she knew that, I just wish I had told her what she meant to me.
From Becky and Mrs. W I learned that you can motivate people through being appreciative and part of living with no regrets is telling the impressive people in your life just how impressive they are, every chance you get. The other thing that I have discovered along the way is that being appreciative, genuinely thankful for those people who make your life spectacular, is a gift to yourself. Noticing the good things in your life is like turning on the sunshine, everything is brighter and lighter and sweeter and the dark, troubling bits in life seem to shrink against the brightness of gratitude.