Gratitude is a funny thing.
It seems we spend much of our lives searching for approval, hoping a demanding boss or selfish coworker will acknowledge our contribution to the larger cause.
When we seek it, we often walk away empty handed.
Fishing for compliments–beyond being uncouth–rarely yields more than a statement grumbled under annoyed breath. Those whom we feel owe us praise are always the last to give it (if it does happen) and mostly do so out of a sense of obligation, it appears.
Earnest thanks, regardless of source, pours nourishing sunshine on the meadows of our soul.
What’s amazing is how difficult we find the acceptance of such a wonderful, simple gift. Made uncomfortable by a shower of grateful expressions, we run for cover in the shelter of our own inadequacy. “I didn’t do anything to deserve this,” we think. “I didn’t do that good of a job.”
Why is it appreciation manages to make us squirm?
You have a right to harvest the fruit of your labor.
Be gracious and welcoming, you sowed the seed. However unexpected, reaping a reward is the natural result of quality work. Spread the wealth–tell others how they influenced the outcome.
I am still learning how to do this.
Last night, I stood in front of my Pathophysiology students as a lecturer for the last time. Ten of the thirteen women in the room sat in the same room on my first night as a professor. Next week is their exam and I’m leaving at the end of the quarter, so it was our final evening together.
As usual, a quiz signaled the start of class. Shortly thereafter, I received a bevy of parting gifts, including a load of my favorite candy bars and healthy snacks. To top everything off, they took the time to print and frame a certificate of excellence complete with handwritten notes on it from each woman.
A tribute of any kind, let alone one so heartfelt and thoughtful, touches a person beyond the bounds of words.
One of them happened upon a blog I wrote about three months ago, the most-viewed post I’ve ever written.
It is about them.
Somewhat surprised to see my musings have been found by those who have inspired–at least indirectly–a good chunk of what I’ve written, I decided to pull back the curtain and reveal a little more to them. I was unintentionally given the opportunity to recognize their place in my growth as an instructor and a person, to honor the role they have played in my life.
I took them on a quick and unrehearsed tour of my leadership philosophy and observations about life. In the end, I challenged them to lean on each other for support and step to the forefront of the program and the university as a whole–my unspoken goal for them from the beginning.
In closing, before we shared some laughs while passing through many memories, I shared with them a paraphrase of these words from Ralph Nader:
I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.
I am incredibly thankful to have opened the gift I wanted, to have witnessed the growth of those under my supervision.
It is about them.
It always was.