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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Practicing Appreciation

Last week, I received an e-mail from Sunflower Farmers Market, a chain of grocery stores in six western states that sells wonderful produce (and other food, too) at great prices. 'Practicing Appreciation' was the title of a piece about the wonders of good food. The message was that we should stop and think about all the people who work to produce the wonderful food and drinks we take for granted.

That started me thinking. I'm not at all a 'foodie,' and haute cuisine is lost on me. But the idea of practicing appreciation is one that hits home. I'd bet that most people are like me: we seldom give a thought to where our food comes from and who produced it. I do read labels for ingredients and country of origin, and I won't buy products produced by or grown in certain countries. But I am pretty much oblivious to those who work to bring us the bountiful food we enjoy.

In addition to appreciating those who produce our food, I also was reminded of the value of appreciation recently, as I spent my birthday with my daughter. She set her alarm for 4:30 a.m., got up, woke our dogs up, fed them and let them outside. When I woke up at 5:30, one dog was asleep in her bed in my room, while the other was in my daughter's room as usual. I couldn't figure out why they were in no hurry to get up. Only later did I realize what she had done. As I lay in bed reflecting on her gift, I felt a great sense of appreciation. Later, she cooked breakfast for me, and we then spent the day together, exploring some new places not too far from home in New Mexico. I consciously appreciated the time we spent together, knowing that what I chose to do that day wasn't something that interested her. But she spent the day without complaint. And I appreciated that.

It is so easy to overlook the little things, such as a thoughtful act or time spent with a loved one. Knowing that my daughter made a special effort to do something for my birthday by getting up extra early (as a teenager, she loves to sleep late) made me truly appreciate her act of kindness.

Like any habit, appreciation can be fostered through practice. The more we practice appreciating something or someone, the more likely we are to find more things to appreciate. Eventually it should become second nature to actively appreciate those around us. I try to tell my daughter when she does something that I appreciate, such as washing the smoothie maker one night so I didn't have to clean it the next morning. I did appreciate her effort, but if I didn't tell her, how would she know?

It is so easy to let our feelings of appreciation go unspoken, or not to even realize that we should appreciate something. Yet the simple act of practicing appreciation can change both the recipient and the giver of appreciation. Think how good it feels when you know that someone appreciates something you have done or said. Today, my daughter was busy when it was time to feed the dogs their evening meal (this is one of my daughter's daily responsibilities). So I fed them. In a few minutes, she came in to feed them, realized I had taken care of this, and thanked me for feeding the pups. What I did by feeding the dogs wasn't a big thing, and it took only a few seconds. But knowing that my daughter appreciated my help made me feel good.

Being more appreciative, and showing my appreciation, is a habit that I will work on. So many things, and people in our lives, are taken for granted. Think how much nicer our world would be if we all told others how we appreciate them.