Simple Recognition 11/23/19

Opinion by Richard Bleil

As the opening credits appear on the screen, credit is given to a new character, “Introducing Robby the Robot” on Forbidden Planet.

Really? A robot?

Somewhere, there is an actor proud of his role as Robby the Robot in the 1956 sci fi thriller. It seems a silly and trivial example of the importance of recognition, but the truth is that we all crave it. Heck, we even have a president boasting the bigliest vocabulary with only the very bestestest words, all in the hopes that somebody will echo his self-congratulatory comments.

Maybe that was mean. But I also believe it to be true. Something I’ve noticed is how frequently he refers to himself as being the best and so on. It might seem odd to say this about the president of America, but I’m wondering if he was given the recognition that he craved as a child.

A little recognition goes a long way. A very long way. As director of the forensic lab, and as dean, periodically I would write a hand-written thank-you note to an employee that I felt has gone above and beyond the call of duty, or, frankly, has just done their own job with outstanding ability and diligence. The only cost to me was a few pennies for a blank card and ink, and a few minutes of my time. But, as I would walk around the building, it was extremely satisfying and humbling when I saw these same note tacked onto bulletin boards near the desks of the recipients.

I hadn’t been the director very long (and any regular reader knows it would be a very brief post in its entirety) when I came to discover that our volunteer had been working with us for many many years. Maybe even decades. He was a retiree, his wife had passed on, and very advanced in years. Mostly he made copies and did some light filing, and I wondered if he had ever been thanked. So, evil as my mind is, I cooked up a scheme. Going to a nearby engraving and trophy store, I found an appropriate metal on a ribbon, and had it engraved. One day, when he came in, we had a cake and little reception for him to present the metal. The entire feast, gifts and all, were inexpensive enough that I had paid for the entire event out of my own pocket. Later, we visited him in a retirement home where he would spend his last months. He had lost everything; his apartment was gone, and nearly all of his possessions had been liquidated, and yet there, in the one shelf in the room, nestled between a few pictures and other small items was the metal in the mount we had provided with it.

Recognition costs very little to anybody, but its value is beyond measure. Sadly, we often neglect to give recognition to those who are most important to us, and just as recognition is empowering, lack of recognition can be just as deleterious. It is far too often that one spouse will fail to give proper recognition to the other. This is something with which I am familiar, but only for the couple of years that I was married. It seems that nothing I did was good enough; nothing rated a positive comment or compliment. Sadly, I have friends who have been facing the same kind of lack of recognition for many years, usually women, married to men who expect unending work from them but never giving sufficient credit, or, for that matter, helping out. My family was the same way with me. My parents were never proud of me, and as a result, I withdrew into my own world, and into my books. It helped me out; it’s because of this that I learned self-reliance and accomplished what I have. But I certainly would have been happier with a family.

We can do better. It takes very little to say a few kind words, to show some appreciation. Soft words are as touching as a written sentiment. Especially as the holiday season descends upon us. Gifts are lovely, but the sentiment they express is more important. Too many parents try to show their love and feelings with money. They buy excessive holiday gifts, treats and such, but kind words would go just as far, spending time would go even further. And it’s no wonder that they can be hurt when gratitude and thanks feel lacking for these efforts.

This year, please take special care to show gratitude for those who are trying to do nice things for us.

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