What must it feel like to have thousands of people cheering uncontrollably because you’re there, because of what you’ve done and because of what you might do?
As part of the crowd for one of these lovefests, I’ve felt my own blood pressure rise simply because of the excitement around me. And I’m just anonymously along for the ride, not even an afterthought in the day’s celebration.
More than anything else, perhaps a crowd’s frenzy serves as validation of the recipient’s life lived well.
Truthfully, and perhaps a little bit secretly, it’s a good feeling when people seem to like us, and it’s even more of a rush when they love us. The power of appreciation is immeasurable in terms of what it does for the recipient. And energetically giving thanks seems to make givers happy, too.
Why is it, then, that most of us slog through each day doing our jobs and living our lives without handing out or receiving meaningful recognition? Or if we are recognized, it’s for a negative rather than a positive? Why is mocking someone online or chewing them out behind their back more common than saying “thank you”?
And what’s the ultimate point of life if, at the end of the journey, we’re unlikely to be feted in a stadium, much less than receive boundless praise from those around us?
This month’s story about neighborhood residents who were part of World War II answers those questions. These are people who, for the most part, didn’t set out to be heroes, didn’t strut around after taking their turn, and didn’t expect to be patted on the back when they came home. Instead, they dug in and did their jobs, perhaps hoping the satisfaction of a job well done would be appreciation enough for the sacrifices they made.
On a global scale, we’ve worn out and, to a certain extent, devalued the moniker The Greatest Generation by essentially commercializing this dwindling group of heroes. But their life-changing bravery and sense of responsibility a generation ago remains a gift the rest of us continue to enjoy every day.
It just so happens we’re entering our country’s annual time of thanksgiving for the good things impacting our lives. These war-veteran neighbors deserve a stadium full of adulation. But failing that, they deserve a pat on the back directly from us. And for that matter, so do our families and our teachers and our co-workers and maybe even some of our bosses.
Being appreciated isn’t necessary to live a good life. It isn’t required to be happy. But it sure doesn’t hurt to let people know we’re thankful for them. It’s kind of like creating our own little stadium of support for the relatively anonymous around us who deserve our respect, even though they probably aren’t holding their breath waiting to receive it.