“In my writing, as much as I could, I tried to find the good and praise it.” That’s a quote from the well-known American author, Alex Haley. You may know him from his most famous work, “Roots,” written in 1976.
Haley discovered his love for writing as a young man in the U.S. Coast Guard. He wrote 40 letters a week to family and friends. Some of his Coast Guard buddies even paid him to write letters to their girlfriends. I hope the girls never found that out.
But it was one Thanksgiving spent at sea that Haley began to think about the true meaning of the holiday. He realized that Thanksgiving was about finding the good in life and appreciating it. That day, Haley wrote a thoughtful and thankful letter to three people who had impacted his life in a positive way — his father, grandmother and pastor. It wasn’t long until he received a response. And what surprised Haley the most was that each of these people thanked him for noticing that they had done something worthwhile. Haley said, he learned that the two most valued words in life are, “thank you.”
Appreciation is the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something. And all of us feel fueled and valued when someone notices and celebrates the good in us or the good we do.
Paul reminds us to, “...encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thes. 5:11).
How do we do that? First, an appreciation that encourages and builds is real. Words don’t mean much if they’re not genuine and thoughtful. Flattery can never do what honest appreciation can. Life is real and full of ups and downs.
Maybe you’ve seen the big beautiful redwood trees of California. These trees can live up to 1,800 years. They say when you look at the rings of the tree you can tell in each ring what the weather was like. It shows if it grew through a bright sunny month or a dark winter month. Because the tree had both. And so will we. But we can help hearts weather every season by giving them what they crave — real appreciation.
Appreciation also needs to be recognizable. That means it should be specific. Being vague or general with our compliments won’t make much of a difference. But when we take the time to intentionally call out and compliment something in someone, it is extremely meaningful. Mark Twain humorously said, “I can live a month off of one good compliment”. That is so true.
Then lastly, appreciation needs to be regular. Every day, we have opportunities to thank the people in our world for the little things they do. And what we appreciate appreciates. That means, it grows in value. That helps others value their potential and play their role with passion. Paul reminds us, “…as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers,” Galatians 6:10. “Thank you” are just two little words, but they make a huge difference.