“Hey Mom, could I have this copy of the Woodinville Weekly?”
My son, (whom I’ll call Slash for the purpose of respecting his requested privacy), lived at home during some of the years I wrote for our community newspaper in Woodinville, Washington.
He had never before asked to keep any of the copies of the newspaper, and I felt pleased he wanted to have a copy to treasure. I wondered what articles in the paper I had written that prompted his desire to save it.
Pondering this further, I decided to go ask which of my articles did he like so much.
I found him in the dining room and before speaking, I stopped. Slash had unfolded the newspaper and carefully laid the sheets on the dining room table to cover the entire area. He then placed his bonsai tree on the newspaper and proceeded to transplant his tree to a larger pot. Clumps of dirt fell on top of the newspaper.
I laugh about it now…ha, ha, ha. But not a knee-slapping laugh because I recognize that just as the earth needs the sun, humans have a need for approval.
Approval, no matter how small, brings on a sense of well-being and security. When I shove my debit card in the card reader at the grocery store, I love it when the word “approved” lights up the screen. Or the pop-up words “you have perfect spelling” when you go to spell check after writing an e-mail.
I don’t know anyone who likes disapproval. Who loves a driver in another car waving an obscene hand gesture while lips flap words you thankfully can’t hear? No one I know. Although, I confess, it has been a long time since this has happened to me because my vision is so bad. Flap away, I don’t see you.
What I do want, (if I could see you), is a thumbs up, a smile, and lots of your money if you’re feeling generous.
A few days ago, I drove Lady B (our red Buick) while Jerry sat in the passenger seat. We came to a dead stop when two cars blocked the road. It seems two friends going in opposite directions had stopped to chat. I politely waited for the driver in front of me to wrap up her conversation and get moving. But she just kept on chatting. I’m surprised she didn’t send out for pizza or perhaps she did. Jerry leaned over to honk the horn and I said, “Please don’t Jerry. I’m not a honker.” Jerry said, “Well I am!”
I will blast the horn if a car suddenly threatens my safety, but I don’t honk to say “move it.”
I backed up and took an alternate route.
Mark Twain once said he could live for two months on a good compliment. Building others up not only brightens someone’s day, but has the potential of giving them something they will cherish for a lifetime.
I realized how much my words can make an impact while visiting a second-grade classroom years ago. As a garden columnist (in addition to writing feature stories), I had dropped by the classroom to learn more about the children’s study of gardening and worm farming. In anticipation of my visit, the second-graders had penned stories about worms and how they benefit gardening. Some proudly read their literary creations to me.
I listened carefully, applauded at appropriate times, and of course, oohed and ahhed over their very-alive, wriggling worms.
Later, I wrote an article on the class and their gardening program. I then moved on to other interviews and stories. A week or so later, I received an e-mail with the subject heading: Story on Worming.
The e-mail read:
“I want to thank you for the article you wrote in the Woodinville Weekly on ‘Worming.’ I am the father of the girl you met named Chelsea. She was so excited to see her name in print (and her best friend Nicole’s picture as well).
Since the issue came out, she (Chelsea) has been working on a book (a secret topic for now-she won’t tell me until it is done) and said, “the WW reporter told me I should be a writer so I am now writing my first book.” You lit a spark in her which is so important. Thank you very much. We really appreciate it.”
Until the e-mail, I had forgotten about Chelsea or telling her she should consider becoming a writer. I gave no thought to my words having any impact on her actual career choice.
I have since framed the e-mail because I want to remember that my words and actions affect others. Who knows what a few encouraging words could have on another’s spirit or life path?
Approval, encouragement, or appreciation doesn’t cost anything except our time. It often seems our society is quick to tell us what we did wrong and very rarely what we did right.
How often has a cop stopped you to say, “Good driving. Way to go,” ~ then hands you a glazed donut rather than a ticket? Or when was the last time you were given a gold star for doing something right?
Slash may not have saved my newspaper articles, but he does have a copy of my book (for further info on ‘said’ book, look to the right of this blog). He set my book on his fireplace mantle and tells me I’m one of his three favorite writers. That fact alone makes me happy.
Even so, I like the idea of awarding myself gold stars for all the good things I do. This entire week I haven’t purchased anything on Etsy or Amazon. That deserves a gold star. I organized my closet according to color, and just started the yellow section. Gold star for me. And I began listening to my “learn Spanish CD” while folding laundry. That’s two gold stars for shouting “encantada” and “mucho gusto” while folding Jerry’s t-shirts and underwear.
Now…to check out Etsy…