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It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it a home,
A heap o’ sun an’ shadder, an’ ye sometimes have t’ roam
Afore ye really ’preciate the things ye lef’ behind,
An’ hunger fer ’em somehow, with ’em allus on yer mind.
(Edgar Albert Guest)
IT’S SAD HOW LITTLE WE APPRECIATE SOME THINGS UNTIL WE’VE LOST THEM OR THEY’VE BEEN LEFT BEHIND. By deferring our appreciation until we’ve been deprived, we miss out on so much of the day-to-day enjoyment of appreciation. It would be so much better if we paid the price to gain a sense of gratitude right now.
Appreciation is the last link in a chain that starts with the conscious effort to count our blessings. It has never been said better than in the words of the old hymn: “Count your many blessings, name them one by one.” This means consciously focusing our minds on the things that are valuable to us. And though this sounds simple, it is no small task in these busy days. We rarely have the time to leisurely and luxuriously reflect on each of the good things in our lives — but we need to take the time to do so. When we do, it’s likely that we’ll be struck by how sadly our lives would be impoverished if we didn’t have these things, and that awareness then leads to the last link in the chain — appreciation. So remember the sequence: (1) meditation on our blessings, (2) awareness of their importance, and (3) appreciation of their value.
Out of all the things we ought to appreciate, of course, the greatest are the people around us. In the words of psychologist William James’s famous statement, “The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” In our heart of hearts, we all know that this saying contains a great insight. And if we know how much we appreciate being appreciated, that’s all the more reason for us to go out of our way to appreciate others. They need it as much as we do.
Disliking things is easy, isn’t it? It requires little effort and little character. But finding worthy things to like and then fully appreciating them requires more of us. That being true, let’s set ourselves a goal: let’s aspire to be people who are defined by both the goodness of the things we love and the depth of our appreciation for every one of them.
“The question is not what a man can scorn, or disparage, or find fault with, but what can he love and value and appreciate” (John Ruskin).