#4 The Gift of Appreciation
Could we pause together for a few moments today to consider the Gift of Appreciation?
It strikes me this morning that Appreciation is tied to the Gift of New Eyes we have referenced elsewhere in this writing and reflected in the quote from Marcel Proust. “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
I don’t want to talk about it as a thing we should do. Today I am struck with the wonder of it. My world changes, maybe even transforms, with this lens impacting my sight and experience.
NEW EYES OF APPRECIATION
This summer I had rotator cuff surgery. If you have ever had it or known someone who has, you have had a glimpse of its physical restrictions. For me one of the hardest parts of the recovery was the restriction on driving! Six of the longest weeks of my life and such forced dependence on other people for every doctor’s appointment, prescription pick-up, shopping. Boy, do I appreciate my driving privileges! I had taken them for granted for four decades! I felt like I got a “Get Out of Jail” pass the day the doctor said I was free to drive once more.
When I think back on this post- surgery recovery, I recall a question I pondered extensively at the time,
“Who am I when I can do nothing?” I couldn’t put on my own clothes, regulate my own meds, take a shower, brush my teeth using my surgical arm. I couldn’t get my arm in a sleeve without assistance.
The social isolation was hard too.
I recall asking the doctor months into the process: “Will I ever get to sleep in a bed again?”
Though I appreciated the ability to sleep anywhere most nights, I missed my bed and my honey; that recliner and sofa were not looking like gifts to appreciate at the time.
Have you had a period of restriction or loss that made you more appreciative of your body, your freedom, your loved ones who supported you through that valley?
Would you take a moment to pause and take mental note of this appreciation and perhaps record it in your journal?
A Senior Leader Experiences Appreciation in New Ways
I remember a Senior Leader returning to Day 2 of a class we offered at his workplace. He reported to the group that after our session the previous day, he had gone back to the department and noticed one lone worker still at his desk.
Prompted by the content of our session, he chose to stop and engage with this worker rather than make the normal beeline to his office, his usual efficient habit. He had not met the man previously. He learned in that interaction that this man had been employed by the company for many years and had been affected by a large downsizing there in which he had lost his job. Just recently he had been re-hired and he was so very grateful for his employment.
The man explained all this to the Officer, expressing in a cracked voice how much he appreciated being back at the company and all that it meant to him and his family. Loss had deeply impacted his gratitude. The Director recounting this exchange to the class experienced a cracked voice himself as he shared how grateful he was that he had stopped to notice a person in his employ, not merely a headcount. He had experienced such a gift because he paused. The leader had never experienced gratitude of a worker for a job. The fruit of appreciation multiplied because one person changed a behavior that day.
I saw a sign posted on the City Library door recently inviting people to volunteer to help people read. The only thing required of the volunteer was to sit with someone who was trying to gain the gift of literacy and support them in listening and reading side by side. Man! I had never taken the time to appreciate the gift: the ability to read. That took me on a mental journey of appreciating my parents and so many gifts they were responsible for in my life. They made sure that I could read, I had good teeth….Here were more gifts I had overlooked.
It snowed heavily here a few weeks ago and I sat in the warm car while my husband got out to pump gas, ensuring I would have plenty in my tank to get to a distant city the following morning. Freezing temperatures and I am inside and cozy while he is outside freezing. Do I appreciate this man or take this kind of thoughtfulness for granted? I must plead the fifth sometimes on this, but not this night.
When my honey got back in the car, I expressed a genuine, “Thank you for getting out in the cold and pumping the gas, Hon” to which he responded with a simple “You’re welcome, Hon.”
This one act of appreciation seemed to ignite something in me so that I began to take notice more frequently the myriad number of things he does for me. Do you know how many hours a week he devotes to handling our mail and bookkeeping? Do I know the answer to that question? I noticed that his stock went up with me when I looked at him and his diligent work with my new glasses.
Here’s an Idea
What if we all made a pact to go to The Dollar Store this week and buy a new pair of glasses? Maybe wild-colored ones or maybe boring plain ones. We could cultivate a new habit together. At least once a day we might agree to literally put on our new set of glasses and survey the environment of our lives…the people, the home, the office, the books, how we invested our time and with whom doing what this day. The physical gesture of donning those glasses could remind us to look in new ways.
How about making a list of the new appreciations we experience with our expanded vision?
When I wrote the first draft of this Connections piece, I paused long enough to make such a list and discovered a full 75 items with no effort at all. Watch the world change when we do.
Have you noticed that when we take the time to value people and conditions in this way, that their value grows and expands? We are richer today than we were yesterday. Our relationships are warmer, kinder, more generous, because we exercised the muscle of appreciation. It truly is one of those often- overlooked gifts that keep on giving now that I remember to remember. I think I will put my memory on the gift of items I appreciate. Maybe it will grow too!
Ideas into Action:
8 Steps to New Eyes
Some of us like concrete steps to follow so that we can move in new directions. For those who are interested in “next steps”, here’s a practical structure for doing so:
Carve a window of 15 minutes in your day with your sole agenda being to focus on appreciation.
Schedule this on your calendar as an appointment with yourself that you honor as you would an appointment with someone else. (If you went to Dollar Tree and purchased those glasses mentioned earlier, now’s the time to don them!) Take journal, electronic or hard copy, in hand. (Note: Oprah reports having converted to electronic in recent years.) Whatever works best for you!
Give mental attention to the people and experiences you have had in the past as well as present.
Ask yourself the questions: For whom am I grateful? For what am I grateful?
Brainstorm the list…just keep writing. More will flow as the list ignites.
Pause again to re-read the list and to take in the true value of the people and experiences remembered.
Make a journal entry of what you experience as you take in this remembrance.
Applaud yourself that you took this step in the direction of “new eyes” without ever leaving the shore!