By Charlene Paul
When my kids were in grade school, one of the best times of the day was when they got home with school treasures – anything from pebbles and sticks gathered while walking, to tests marked with a big red good grade at the top. From the latest book order to the sign-up sheet for cookie dough or wrapping paper sales. Yep, that first step through the front door was something I looked forward to.
One day when my oldest son came home from first grade, he happily showed me his finished art project. The squiggly lines and patterns were scribbled with every color in the crayon box. The circles weren’t very round and there were dots everywhere. I will never forget his look of excitement
as he waved that paper in front of me and excitedly asked, “How do you like it, Momma?”
Easy answer. “I like it very much,” I gushed.
“What do you think it is, Momma?”
Well, anyone could see it was a family of Tyrannosaurus Rexes with a couple of Brontosaurus uncles and Ichthyosaurus aunts and cousins.
“It is the best picture of a dinosaur herd I have ever seen!” I replied.
My smile was met with a look of sheer and utter disappointment. I was confused. I was so sure it was a page full of dinosaurs. He told me to guess again, but I am no dummy. One really bad guess was all I had in me.
“Momma’s eyes are a little tired right now, so would you please describe it for me?”
His face perked up as he began his description. Whew, disaster averted.
“Well,” he said, “Teacher told us to draw our favorite things so I drew a picture of our family. See, there’s Dallas and Adam and Daddy and you, and there’s me.”
He was so proud. How silly of me. I stopped to consider just how we all looked in his little first grade eyes, but then let it go.
He was so pleased with himself as he explained each and every line. When he was finished describing our family, I asked if I could hang his picture on the refrigerator so everyone could see it. He told me no; he wanted to hang it there himself. So that picture hung in its rightful spot until the next masterpiece took its place. As the years passed, each child brought home refrigerator pictures that brightened our days.
It wasn’t the pictures themselves that brought the joy and satisfaction. No, that was just a small part of it. The joy came from being able to acknowledge something they had done to the best of their ability. And the satisfaction came from being able to compliment them on a job well done.
The days when I feel the most joy are the days when I know I’ve done something to bring joy to the life of another, or when I have been generous with pats on the back. Kind of like the feelings those refrigerator pictures instilled.
There are times, however, when I let an opportunity to congratulate or praise or make a positive comment to someone pass by without a word. I may think how nice a woman’s hair looks or how well-behaved her children are. I may appreciate the store greeter’s smile and words of welcome. I may notice a simple act of kindness. But instead of taking a quick moment to share my admiration or gratitude, I allow the thought to get mixed up with the rest of the random thoughts running through my head.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a “Like” button that would allow us to express appreciation with a simple keystroke? Or maybe one of those “That was Easy” buttons that said something like, “That was Nice?” That way we would never have to stop what we’re doing or thinking to offer a compliment. But that isn’t how life is. Nope. It takes effort to lighten burdens and to lift up weary heads. Everyone needs sincere and honest praise. And everyone needs to give sincere and honest praise. Everyone needs refrigerator picture moments.
I believe this little adjustment in our lives could actually change the world. Hear me out. Freely offering constructive criticism and being brutally honest has changed our world. Think about it. Negativity in all its forms runs rampant and unchecked in our society today, and it breeds more and more negativity until being cruel and uncaring has become the norm.
What if we replaced some of that constructive criticism for sincere praise? What if honesty was a little less brutal? I’m not talking about trophies for everyone or phony accolades. I’m suggesting that we take a moment to see that what we think is a herd of dinosaurs just might be something different altogether. Maybe the screaming baby in the cart in front of us is cutting teeth and her gums are tender and sore. Maybe the grumpy old man at the counter just lost his wife of fifty years and is sadder than he can say. Maybe the guy who passed us doing ninety on the freeway is rushing to the hospital because his wife is about to give birth to their tiny twin daughters.
Earl Nightingale said, “. . . you become what you think about all day long.” If negative thoughts permeate our daily thoughts, darkness will cloud our vision. But if we put more effort into finding the good in life, light will replace the darkness and our tiny corner of the world will change.
Remember the treasures? The pebbles and sticks. The good grade. The book club. Remember being so excited about showing your good works? Remember? This wonderful holiday season,
think about giving and receiving refrigerator pictures. I promise it will change how you view your world.
From our family to yours, here’s wishing you the Happiest of Thanksgivings, there Merriest of Christmases, the Happiest of New Years, and the gloriousness of all your other special days.