At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
– Albert Schweitzer
It’s the holiday season. Another year is coming to a close.
A few years ago, I started a practice that makes me look forward to this time of year. It’s my own little way of getting into the spirit of the season. I call it The Art of Appreciation.
Appreciation is gratitude in action.
It’s wonderful to be grateful and recognize the blessings in your life. But it’s a whole other level when you take action on that gratitude and go out of your way to say, “Thanks. You were an important part of my year. You matter to me.”
First off, you become profoundly aware of how many people bless your life.
And second, you touch the hearts of those who work hard to serve people like you.
So, how do you show appreciation? What do you do? What do you give?
This time of year, most of the world seems bent on giving plates piled high with blobs of baked dough frosted with green icing. Or clumps of nut and fruit glued together with maple syrup, bourbon and axle grease.
In the spirit of not forcing food on people, I try to come up with ideas for gifts that are non-edible, meaningful, and perhaps even usable.
Here are some general thoughts on appreciation gifts:
• For anyone who has been of service in my home or business, I give a monetary bonus with a card and a special note. This includes, but is not limited to, employees, housekeepers, regular contract help – like WebGuys who did a great job in the year, etc.
• For other gifts, I ask myself what kinds of things I would love to receive, but don’t want to spend money on.
• Bookstore gift certificates are always great. Especially from a local bookstore.
• One year, I bought several big handmade aromatherapy candles from a funky local store here in my town. I picked out the Lemongrass smell because it was subtle and light. I also bought some beautiful rustic trays as candle holders.
• Great smelling body lotions. EccoBella is my favorite. (Note: Use caution with anything smelly. Avoid “aromatherapy” stuff from Big Box Stores. They’re overpowering and will make a home smell less like a sacred space, and more like a brothel.)
• Tuned wind chimes are an extravagant and lovely choice. I gave a set of these to the Artist Rep at Takamine Guitars, and he told me recently that he thinks of me whenever he hears them at his mountain cabin.
• Wine and specialty beers are fun. (Make sure you know the person is okay with alcohol.)
• Handmade Christmas ornaments. (Be sure they celebrate Christmas and/or have a tree.)
• If you’re on a budget, you can a make a mix CD of workout tunes. Or meditation music. Write a note with the CD explaining why you created this CD, and why this music touches you. (I made three mix CD’s called “Cool Women Songwriters” for a friend to play in the car with her three girls. She has thanked me for these CD’s over and over this year. It lets her not have to listen to High School Musical for the 100th time.)
• If you’d like to give a CD that you purchased, I recommend choosing a genre of music that’s neutral – like a meditation music. My favorite is Anugama’s Shamanic Dream. Write a note about why you love this CD and why they might enjoy it.
• If the person is someone you know well – another parent, for instance – you could gift them with a “time certificate” by babysitting their kids for a few hours while they go to the movies for an afternoon, offer to do their dishes one evening or cook them a meal and bring it over.
Please us the comments section below to add any ideas for Appreciation Gifts. (Or, better yet – write down something you wish someone would gift to you that’s not fruit cake!)
Set aside several hours on a day early in December to write notes for each person. The note is the most important thing.
I try to put some thought into the note and make it about them, not about me. (“Here’s what I like about you.”) I let them know that I appreciate their presence on the planet.
It might be a little overwhelming to consider reviewing the whole year to figure out who made a difference in your life, or who you appreciate.
Here are a few ideas that might help you…
1 – Teachers
This is the most obvious beginning place. These are the neighborhood heroes. Tutors who have helped you one on one. Your childrens’ teachers. Or a yoga teacher. Music instructors. Teachers of adult extension courses at community colleges.
2 – Anyone who has made your business travel easier
If you are a business traveler, then you’ve probably gotten to know the airline employees at the check-in or at the gate. Most likely they’ve offered a friendly word in the mornings, or they’ve moved your seat a time or two. I’ve watched hotel desk clerks greet guests by name and go out of their way to welcome the regulars. What a difference this makes.
3 – Anyone who services your home or your family
Your cleaning person. Your handy-man. Pet sitters. Postal carrier. Garbage pick up crew. Recycle pick up crew. Baby sitters. The UPS guy. The FedEx woman.
4 – Anyone who helps you in your self-employment or home office
Anyone who has fixed your computer or made your office life easier. When you’re self-employed, you often know the guys at the post office by their first names.
5 – Anyone in your local hangouts
Librarians are top on my list. (Librarians rock. And believe me, they light up when someone pauses to notice the work they do.) Favorite wait staff at local restaurants. Counter help at UPS FedEx or Kinko’s.
6 – Anyone you just happen to notice doing a great job
A few weeks ago, my husband was getting out of his car in our driveway, and noticed our neighbor raking leaves in her yard. He walked over and told her that he just wanted to acknowledge what a great mom she is, and that she does so well in the world with her daughter and her dogs and managing her home on her own. He told her he appreciates who she is. She told me later that she ran into her house and burst into tears. She had been having a bad day, and she was so touched to hear such kind words. It was a simple acknowledgement given in the moment it was felt. I’m sure you know many people in your life who inspire you even in small ways. Can you let them know?
Now, obviously, you don’t have the time to get a gift for everyone and create the perfect appreciation note. I try to pick five to ten people when I do this. It’s not hard to do at all! Start with just five.
A final note:
Practicing the Art of Appreciation sounds like a selfless and kind thing to do. And of course, it is.
When you do it, however, you realize that you are also gifting yourself. You are spending some time acting on your gratitude. You’re turning your attention to the joy and delight of your life. This can’t help but make you feel wonderful.
Intend to have a great holiday season this year. Practice the Art of Appreciation.