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(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

Yesterday while running around in circles on the track at my local recreation center (Baby, it’s cold outside!), I finished listening to the audio book mentioned in my most recent post. Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Most From Your People by Edward M. Hallowell, MD, continues to spark my thinking. And, yes, though I still don’t have my “own” people to manage, the truth is we all have our own people. Hallowell had a book to write about motivating people, but when he met the shoe-shiner he calls Dr. Shine, that’s when he figured out how he really wanted to direct the book.

Dr. Shine told Hallowell he worked for him—just as he works for anyone whose shoes he is shining. Here’s a man who believes in trying to find the spark in everyone he serves in that job. Not sure if he knows anything about yoga, but that sounds a whole lot like the phrase that ends most yoga classes: Namaste or I bow to the divine in you. In yoga classes, this is a reciprocal phrase spoken between teachers and students. But do most people whose shoes are being shined think to reach out to the people, such as Dr. Shine, who are serving them? Do they see the spark in him or tell him they do?

Come to think of it, do I do that? No, I don’t get my shoes shined, but there are many people in my world—personal and otherwise—who help me along my way.

Sure, I thank my servers and try to respond to their well wishes with a hearty “you too”, but do I actually express my gratitude to the people who “serve” me more frequently—my exercise instructors, my physical therapist, my minister, my choir director, and other people working with me from a specific role in my life. And beyond that, do I let my loved ones know what I especially appreciate about who they are and what they do for me?

No, I don’t. I am quietly grateful for all these people, but rarely show anything more than polite appreciation, if that.

My mother was a great encourager to those who gave to her. In her last years she kept busy baking dinner rolls for the pharmacy or the doctor’s office staffs to show her gratitude. She really did let people know she appreciated what they did, even if they were just performing their paid jobs. Plus, she would give compliments to the young people she knew at her church, pointing out their strengths and applauding their learning and growth.

Nonetheless, for me she kept her approval more silent. I always knew she appreciated me, but I mostly heard that when she sang out my praises to other people in my hearing. In those last years she would tell people, “She takes care of me.” Of course I did—she was my mother—but it was still really nice to hear that she valued what I did for her.

Thinking about Dr. Shine made me realize just how stingy I am with words of praise for those who are frequently in my life.

I tell my husband I love him, but forget to let him know how much I appreciate the meals he makes for me and the income he earns to provide for our family. I tell others how much he does for me, but remain silent more often than not to him. It would be easy for him to think I don’t notice that his efforts, as well as his belief in me, are a big part of why I have the time and strength to do what I do.

The same is true for my kids. They don’t expect false words of praise from me, but would it be so hard for me to share with them what really impresses me about them?

So yesterday, inspired by Dr. Shine, I told my son, “You know, I think it’s great that you look for what is good in each person and you often keep looking.” He’s no Pollyanna, which is what makes that even more impressive—he has this mission to bring hope into this world even while being pragmatic about the high odds that the world and people will still disappoint.

My daughter has had so many health challenges to face and she gets so weary. However, through all that, she works hard at school and in jobs. So many people in her shoes would not even try, but she is compelled to do her best, even when that comes with a big personal cost. And still, she feels kindness matters, even when she doesn’t experience it in great doses.

My yoga teacher? She changed my life and outlook and helps me through difficulties—physical and otherwise. My physical therapist moves me back to wellness. My minister reaches my soul and strengthens my faith, even when I want to turn away. My choir director challenges me to learn in new ways and in so doing reminds me of what I already know and that I might yet discover more. Those are just some of the people who improve my journey and who I never give more than a quiet “thank you”, if that.

You don’t have to be a manager to make a difference in people’s lives and that’s what Dr. Shine already knows. Treat people as people who were each created with a unique spark and thank them for how that spark helps you. That’s the real meaning of all those Namastes and Peace be with yous and Also with yous that we mouth back and forth to one another.

Namaste—I bow to the divine in you—and may I yet learn to tell all my people that.

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