The Dot- It’s What We Leave as a Legacy

She asked me tonight how the blog was doing. And I told her that it was not where I’d like it to be. After its second wind in early August and the contact I’d made with Arianna Huffington, I had been floating high on the hope that things would really fly. Really take off.  Just like they had twice before. So when she asked me tonight how things were going and my answer was a little lacklustre, I guess what I was really thinking was “Writing blogs is hard.  Writing blogs for people to read is hard. It’s too hard, sometimes.  Maybe I’ll never be the writer I want to be.”

Sometimes we just have to speak the words we really feel- not to embrace them.  But to release them.

A bit later on, I stumbled across a little electronic reminder that today is International Dot Day, in celebration of Peter Reynold’s book called The Dot. A book written in celebration of starting small and making one’s mark…one little dot at a time. One little word. One little sentence, one little phrase. One little blog article at a time. And when one starts small, they find that one thing leads to another.  One little blog piece leads to another little blog piece. To another and another. It’s kind of like putting one foot in front of the other.

You just don’t know where you’ll end up.

But you know where you’d like that destination to be.

I’ve always wanted to be an influencer. I’ve always wanted to make my mark on this world. Find my place in this world.  Be somebody.  But at the same time, I have thought to myself: “I don’t have everything all figured out yet…I don’t know everything there is to know about what I want to talk about.” So I found myself starting small. I first wrote vignettes about our life as a family. About my role as a mother, wife and woman.  And in time, I found healing in those words. Found healing in the process.  In the beginning, I wrote solely on the topic of joy.  For I was on a pursuit- a pursuit to find joy. And in letting myself lean into the pain, the sadness- and even the grief at times, I found the release I was searching for.  Found the healing. And I began to start over.

My dot has been this blog.

I want to thank everyone who reads this blog. Most of you have found me through “What Students Remember Most About Teachers” and for the success of that piece, I will forever be a jumbled mix of surprise and gratitude. For anyone who reads anything else you might find here, I offer a simple word of thanks. You have made the Dot I placed in this interweb of technology meaningful and worthwhile for me. My readers sustain me. You are the other half of this equation and I write as much for you as I do for myself.

In celebration of International Dot Day, I want to celebrate the dots we are placing on this world. Celebrate the work we do in our homes- as parents, children, siblings, cousins, friends, uncles, aunts, grandparents and guardians. And celebrate the service we offer up in our places of work- as employees, leaders, followers, doers, visionaries, role models, facilitators, mentors and steady, reliable workers. Paid and unpaid. In our communities, we must never forget to appreciate and recognize the countless volunteers, board members, trustees, committee reps, and more.  All making dots on our community landscape.  And in our world, as people who stand by one another and help one another through both the good and the bad.  Let us celebrate the dots we represent around the globe.

We are all making our mark. Let’s be proud of the dots we leave behind each day as a remembrance of our calling.  Our daily offering to this world of ourselves and our love.  And may we never undermine the importance of the dot our lives represent.

Each Dot is a beautiful mark of impact on this world that only we can make.

The Art of Appreciation

I was reading a blog the other day that gave kudos to teachers, in support of Teacher Appreciation Week. It talked about the work that teachers do and acknowledged teachers and educational assistants as doing important, worthwhile things, in both academic and other areas, so as to support children and young people in their growth, learning and development. It talked a lot about the little unnoticed things that teachers do, things that often fall below the radar as far as visibility. It was a nice article- it made you feel good to read it.

Particularly if you were a teacher.

And then I scrolled through the comments.

And as I did, I came across some negative feedback- as there so often is- to counter the opinions of the author. Comments placed there so as to undermine the author’s attempts at acknowledging her intended audience: teachers. Comments placed there to whine about why other groups of people hadn’t been thanked. Comments placed there to diminish the efforts of individuals committed to their calling and willing to make sacrifices so as to continue doing so. They were rather hurtful comments to read, whether one was a teacher or not.

I am a teacher. But these comments didn’t irk me because I am a teacher. They irked me because I am a human being. A person with a desire to continually acknowledge the best in people and thus see and commend the value of other human beings in service, whomever those individuals might be. And I do this, quite often, through the art of appreciation. Which is to say: I try to watch others. And whatever they might be doing or saying or being matters to me. So much so, that I try to extend to them, as often as I can, a word of appreciation. Thanks and gratitude. It’s not rocket science- but it is pretty important stuff: actually, it’s how I was taught to be by my own gracious mother. So I continue to do so as often as I can. And it is what I now teach the next generation to do as well- my students and four children as well.

It’s quite easy really. Appreciate people. Tell them once in a while what they mean to you. Carry on and repeat.

Couldn’t be simpler.

But I am finding, at times, that this ability of ours as people, to appreciate others: it is passed over in favor of the all-important critique. It is more trendy to critique someone on their performance, abilities or job and less favorable to find the best about them instead. It is more interesting to find fault. Less interesting to build up. More interesting to point fingers rather than to join hands.

As a result, we are losing much, not the least of which is a dying art. That is, the art of appreciating people and things and ideas. The ability to recognize possibility. Particularly, the potential in another human being and then acknowledge that same person for their endeavours. I think that we as people can never do enough appreciating in this life. And it certainly should never come at the expense of a lost opportunity taken instead to undermine another human being’s worthy attempts at celebrating other human beings for their efforts.

Appreciation matters.

My students had a tea party for their mother’s today. It is my third annual tea party for mothers. I once also threw a pizza party for fathers. It is possibly in the works again for this year. The point of me telling this is because the whole event is organized so that my students can take time to think about and reflect on their parents and the hard work they do at raising them. The important work they do in loving them. And thus come to appreciate them a little more. We spend time thinking about what parents do. How they look after us. How they provide for us. We take time to thank them. We sing songs in praise of them. We prepare things that we know they will like and then we serve them. We let them eat and drink first, for a change. In short, we take time to honor their legacy.

It’s very important work- and not just for five and six years olds. It just might be some of the most significant work I do with my students all year. I take it very seriously.

What I am trying to say here is this: we need to instill in our children, our young people and thus in adults as well, the value of appreciation. The worth of acknowledgment. The importance of telling people what they mean to us. The art of appreciation.

Not because we as receivers of this praise need it so as to shore up our self esteem.
Not because we are needy of accolades.
Not because we can’t function unless we have a set number of compliments.
Not for our egos.

But for our souls. Because quite simply, we matter.

No matter what we do we matter. That’s because people matter.

And because our person matters: our contributions thus matter, our influence matters and our legacy matters.

And when we are told as much, it causes us to want to do the same for another human being, starting a chain of appreciation to begin to form.
One can only imagine what ways this world could change with such a chain. Such a possibility for seeing worth in the world around us.
It is quite simply the power that is the art of appreciation.

And I believe that when we appreciate, there is no end to the possibilities for hope.

It’s just that influential.

Not enJOYing this!

I am sitting in a meeting, and the presenters have begun to speak.  The topic, one chosen for its pertinence to all in attendance, should be enough to captivate the audience and compel the listening group to lend an ear attentively.  We are being financially paid, by the way, to pay attention.  One quick glance around the room, and the truth would be told.  Sadly, the talk these specialists will give today is not enough to keep even the rule-sticklers from hiding a yawn.  It is not really the fault of the experts giving the presentation.  They have a lot to contend with, what with all the gadgets that are being flashed about: SMART phones, iphones, ipads, ipod touch’s, Blackberrys, and lest we forget, the good old-fashioned pencil for doodling.

Not to mention the conversations going on between others as off-shoots from all of the above.  Is it any wonder we are unable to focus our attention on a spoken lecture, one that it is devoid of technological trappings and lacking the excitement factor of a good old-fashioned conversation?  And furthermore, even if our very careers depended on listening to a forty-five minute spiel, I wonder how many of us would be dead before the half-way point was reached?

I am shocked, embarrassed and dare I say annoyed at the lack of respect we show and deference we pay to those given the task of speaking in public. Paid or voluntary, it matters not.  Neither does the size or importance of the venue seem to make a difference either.  Whether the smallest of meetings to the largest of gatherings, people don’t know how to stop what they are doing and listen.  We don’t know how to keep quiet longer than the time it takes to say (quite honestly), “Would you just shut up!”

I have a major beef with any and all who have the nerve to make a racket while another human being is speaking.  As a teacher, I work very hard with my students on creating habits that help us to not interrupt when anyone has been given the floor for talking.  I want them to learn that there is value in listening and in being heard.  We don’t seem to have a problem with speaking, it’s the listening part of the equation that is getting the bum rap.  Furthermore, if we as adults cannot show one another the same respect and deference that we expect the younger generation to show, what hope is there for them?

The art of listening well, as a time- honored craft, is becoming obsolete.

I was talking to someone today about a church service she had attended Sunday morning.  She spoke of a leader in the service who got up on stage and did a fair chunk of talking/lecturing to the congregation before sitting down to “listen” to the sermon.  I use the word “listen” very loosely.  This woman ended up sitting directly behind my friend, which would have been fine if not for the following.

Almost as soon as she sat in her chair, she began to loudly whisper to her husband and proceeded to talk the entire sermon.  She spoke in such a loud whisper that my friend was able to catch bits and pieces of the conversation only to discover that she was actually poking fun at some of the seniors in the church.  My friend was beyond annoyed by the distraction this woman posed to her ability to hear the minister delivering his sermon, but matters were made worse when the woman got up at the end of the service and continued to lead the prelude music to end the service.  From the front of the church.  And she did so as if she had done nothing wrong from the back of the church!

Are you kidding me?  Are people really that self-consumed and full of importance that they cannot give the deference to another human being that they would also expect for themselves?  I may be old-fashioned in that I tend not to carry cell phones around with me everywhere I go.  I actually own and carry a SMART phone in my purse, I have bought two of my children an ipod touch and my husband and I frequently use our laptop away from home.  But, when another human being is speaking to me, particularly when it is a public venue (we can of course make allowances for when we are at home), I still feel it is important to give that person my utmost of attention and respect.  And I try to make a practice of not allowing technology to interfere with my listening.

If that makes me crazy, commit me now!  But at the very least, listen attentively to me rant as I make my way there.  If it’s not too much to ask!