Stop! Take Time to Express Your Appreciation… Every Day

Consider what billions of people throughout the world do every day for “bread.”  Bread meaning money, bread meaning food, bread meaning the necessities of life, bread meaning feeding our soul, self esteem and ego, bread meaning the resources necessary to do that which we want and dream to do.  Billions of people do pretty much “whatever it takes” each and every day in order to earn or somehow obtain the “bread” they need for the life they want.  And so it is with you!

Now consider this powerful statement from Mother Teresa… “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”  If you take a moment to seriously think about Mother Teresa’s statement, it is truly astounding and filled with life-changing opportunities and ramifications… “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

Want more joy, fulfillment and success (however you define success) in both your personal and professional life?  Stop!  Take time to sincerely express your appreciation… every day!  Cicero got it right with this statement, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
This issue of Tips for Success is being published in the United States on Memorial Day, 2009.  Memorial Day commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service.  Given the day of publication, I would like to share a true and very personal story regarding the power and impact of taking time to sincerely express   appreciation.

Friday, November 28, 2008, the day after Thanksgiving, I am on a flight from Dallas to Phoenix.  I am sitting in seat 3B.  For those who don’t fly a lot, seat 3B on a super 80 aircraft is the first aisle seat on the left side of the aircraft in first class.  I’m reading when I notice a soldier (Army) use the rest room which is directly in front of me.  He comes out… I nod and he nods as he goes back to his seat.  I sit there and think for several minutes about who he might be, where is stationed, where is he going, does he have a family, what are his life circumstances, etc.  I resolve that if he comes to the front again (American had upgraded him to first class but he was several rows behind me), I was going to engage him in a conversation if he was OK with that.

An hour or so passed and here he came.  When he came out of the restroom I stood up (there are no seats in front of 3B so I had plenty of room) and said, “I want to thank you for your service to our country Sir.”  Those of you who know me well know that I have a very tender heart.  I get emotional and cry easily, particularly relative to something or someone I really care about.  By the way, I do not apologize for having a tender heart and crying at times.  Grown, caring, loving, passionate, transparent, mature men do cry and should cry.  It is a part of life, being human and being transparent.

It was clearly obvious to the soldier that I was tearing up and could hardly talk.  My transparency and sincerity got to him.  His face turned red and he began to tear up.

I said, “Where are you going?”  “Going home Sir.”

“How long will you be home?”  “Eighteen days Sir.”

“Where are you stationed?”  “Iraq Sir.”

“How long have you been there?”  “This is my third tour Sir.”

“What do you plan to do after you get out of the Army?”  “Finish college Sir.  I am only a few hours from graduating Sir.”

“What is your major?”  “Statistics Sir.”

“Statistics!!??  Lord have mercy, you are a lot smarter than I will ever be!”  A broad, wide smile came across his face.  “Well I don’t know about that but I thank you Sir!”

“Are you considering grad school?”  “Yes I am Sir.”

I proceed to give him my favorite lecture.  “Get all the education, both formal and informal, you can.  Get it now and get it later.  The more the better and for the rest of your life!  It will pay huge dividends in so many ways for the rest of your life!”  “Yes Sir… I believe that Sir.”

I ask him other questions regarding his family and his plans for the future… such a wonderful young man with so much potential in so many ways.  Whatever his motives for joining the Army, he has been literally and physically laying his life on the line, on a daily basis, for several years, for me and for every person reading this true story.

I tear up again as I reach into my shirt pocket.  I had prepared a little gift for this young man.  Incredibly inadequate for what he has and is doing for me and everyone reading this true story.  But just a little something to remind him and reinforce that fact that there are thousands, yes millions of people like me who deeply appreciate what he is doing for our country and for each of us.

I hand him the gift and suggest that he go to the best restaurant (or bar, remember he is a young Army man) and enjoy an excellent meal with friends or family on me.  He looks at my hand and sees a folded $20 bill.  He has no idea there are many more $20s that are also folded and within the little packet in my hand.

“Oh no Sir… I could not accept that… the Army pays us plenty of money.”

“No they don’t.  I know better.  Take it as a small token of deep and sincere appreciation, particularly during this Thanksgiving season, from me, my family and from all my friends who appreciate you more than you will ever know.”

The soldier hesitantly took the folded bills and put them in his pocket.  I thanked him for being willing to talk to me and I thanked him again for his service and his life.  I reminded him again of the incredible potential for his life.  I gave him a business card and asked him to email me from time to time if he felt so inclined.  He took his seat.

Obviously, when he returned to his seat he checked his pocket and reflected on our conversation.  As I walked off the plane an hour later, I looked back and waved at him.  You would not believe the incredible smile, the obvious sense of satisfaction and acceptance he felt, and enthusiastic way he was walking.  The positive energy was obvious.  He was floating off that plane.  Not because of the money (although he no doubt had a great meal with those he cares about most), but because someone took the time to sincerely show interest in him and to thank him for his service as an American soldier, as a very nice young man with so much potential, and as a human being who may very well lose some or all of his limbs or even his life, when he returns to Iraq, in service to you and me!

The soldier will not remember my name, my face or the amount of money I gave him.  None of that is important.  However, I guarantee you he will never forget that flight and the fact that a total stranger stood to honor him and to express sincere appreciation and gratitude for his service and his life.  That is what’s important and that is what will hopefully have a lasting positive impact in his life.  Maybe he will be more inclined to sincerely express appreciation to others… for the rest of his life.  That would be an incredible return on my investment!

This true story is by far, the best thing that happened to me during Thanksgiving, 2008.  I am a better man, a better American and a better human being because of the experience.  That soldier gave me far, far more than I will ever be able to give him….

And so it is with you!  “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

Want more joy, fulfillment and success (however you define success) in your life?  Stop!  Take time to sincerely express your sincere appreciation… each and every day!

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I am a leader, speaker, and author who is passionate about Leadership Excellence and Achieiving Greater Success. I am the author of the books Be An Inspirational Leader(2016) and Presidential Leadership (2013), and deliver keynote presentations on those topics and several others.

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