Appreciation is something we all want, but we often struggle to give it to others.
As an educator, I often ask my students to find something positive about someone else and speak to them about it. I don’t let them cop out with statements like, “you have cool shoes” or “you are nice”. They have to say something specific to a person who is not someone that they normally hang out with.
In this day and age, I notice more and more people stuck behind their smartphones. They often are more used to interacting online than live and face to face. Less and less of my students, which I serve over one hundred each year, even know their classmates name. Often, they don’t even attempt to learn other students’ names. Although I do think many of the technological advances we have made have helped us, they have also created new addictions. This addiction alienates us from each other, with only a false sense of community. People gather around each other with only those who agree, apart from the meaningless online arguments from those hiding behind a screen.
In 1923, Martin Buber published I and Thou, whose basic premise was that we should work towards knowing the people we interact with. For example, at our grocery store that we go to weekly, we know the names of the people who check us out. For example, Mary who was recently moved over from the flower department, lives in a great expanse of land and loves to garden. She is a kind hearted person who recently drove thirty miles through the ice to work at the grocery store. She is a consistently kind person who always greets us and even follows up about other things we have spoken about. She embodies the hard working spirit of an American working hard and making ends meet.
Our visit to our local grocery store is much different than other places that we frequent. We often see people and they wave and we even ask them how they have been doing. My wife even helped one person on some college essays. I spoke to one person about their gambling addiction. I wish that we had more spaces like this because it changes us.
What happens when we build an appreciation for others, is that we seek to know them. We appreciate the people more that we actually know. We hear their stories of struggle and joy, we know them. I want to show more appreciate to people, not just by my words, but by my actions. I realize I am often naturally drawn to only appreciate people who are serving me. That is not enough.
I could do better to appreciate the people who I am in closer quarters with. Often, appreciation for people you around daily looks much different. It means following through on promises. It means not being negative or mean, pulling people down. It means keeping promises to yourself as well. Appreciation can even go to the level of self-care. Of these last categories, I could use some work. I am sure all of us struggle in one of the areas.
I hope you will work this week to appreciate those serving, co-laboring, and living with, especially yourself. Now that I appreciate you for reading this, please leave a comment below, so I know who is reading.