The Fine Art of Appreciation
The holiday of giving thanks is upon us, and for me, it always provides a welcome opportunity to pause, reflect, and take stock. What or whom do you think of when it’s time to give thanks? When I think of the people in my life whom I love, family and friends and neighbors and colleagues and more, I recognize my immense wealth. Material things come and go, but it is the love we share that is our true measure of success.
The words that come to mind for that feeling of love – thankful, gratitude, appreciation – are somewhat interchangeable, but to me, the most powerful among them is “appreciate”.
To be grateful is to look back at the blessings, and kindnesses that have come your way. Thankfulness is an action word that describes how we make the conscious effort to express that gratitude – to let whoever we’re grateful to know that we see and value what they’ve done for us.
But, for me, the most eloquent word is appreciation because it goes the deepest and requires something from us beyond a simple “thank you”. Appreciation looks forward and calls us to look more deeply at the person; to take in their unique qualities, the full picture of who they are and what they bring to the world.
My most memorable image of Thanksgiving is walking into my grandparents' home and taking in the aromas of roasted turkey and homemade rolls baking in the oven, and seeing my grandmother standing in the hall with her apron over her yellow dress with her slip strap drooping on her shoulder and her glasses having slipped down on her nose from the heat in the kitchen and her arms open wide waiting for a hug. I am thankful for that memory but I appreciate now more than ever, the enormous effort of hosting a family Thanksgiving gathering.
Consider the difference between standing before a masterpiece at a museum and being thankful, or grateful for its beauty. But when you appreciate it, you are doing more, you are admiring the intricacy of the brush strokes, the genius of the artist and the wonder of how it evokes such emotion rather than just glancing at the image and moving on.
Done right, appreciation takes time, relishes the smallest details, understands how much thought and effort went into the making of this good and beautiful creation, whether it’s a person or a painting. Appreciation deepens gratitude and informs thankfulness.
I am thankful and grateful for you, for taking moments out of your busy life to read my writings. More importantly, I appreciate you for being the type of person who resonates with my ideas of goodness and kindness and mission and purpose.
When we feel truly appreciated, we shine. When we show others, we genuinely appreciate them, whether, with a thoughtful word or meaningful deed, they shine, too. Yes, it takes a little more effort, and a little more reflection, but the positive impact is far greater for both of us and those we appreciate.
What or who are you grateful for? How do you thank those whose lives touch yours? Who do you appreciate in your life? Let them know, in ways that show you appreciate them for all they are, not just for what they do.