Appreciating Others

Fred Smith uses his inimitable style to direct us toward the gift of appreciation and encouragement.

By Fred Smith

Once I was asked to speak at the graduation of a drug center in which the addicts who were graduating asked one of the other addicts to come and stand with them and accept their appreciation for the help they had given them through the program. In the audience was a very dowdy fortyish-looking heavy-set woman who looked like she had experienced tremendous stress. When one young man stood, he thanked the institution thanked his sponsor, and then turned to this woman. "Thanks, mom." The tears began. That may have been the first time he had thanked his mother for all she had gone through with him. He knew that day the joy of giving the gift of appreciation.

At the annual luncheon for the Salvation Army, I was so impressed with the group of former addicts who had formed a choir and sang for the audience. One of them said something that I wanted to remember, so I wrote it down. "I' m so glad the Salvation Army didn't stop giving before they got to me. If our mothers were here they'd hug you, our fathers would appreciate your saving their sons, and our children and wives would thank you for giving us back to them. "Then he followed up by saying, "I love to be around people who want to help me." And you know that his gift to them was deeply felt.

Throughout my business career I've been impressed with the importance of secretaries so I've tried to get to know them personally. Just last week while I was waiting for my friend, the CEO of a Dallas company, his secretary came out to visit with me while I waited. He had in a previous time told me how he appreciated her and how capable she was. When I told her what he said, she said, "You mean he said that about me?" And then she paused and repeated, "You mean he said that about me? I can't believe it." He appreciated her greatly, but simply forgot to let her know. A gift isn't given until it is received.

So often we fail to give the gift of appreciation which could mean so much. In my early career in the plant often times an employee would ask the supervisor, "How am I doing?" Hoping for a word of appreciation, he would more frequently than not get hit in the face with: "You haven't heard me say anything to you in three months, have you? You're doing ok." The Bible tells us that when it is ours to give, we shouldn't hold back. I am convinced that a word of appreciation and encouragement could change plants, homes and schools.

When I sat down to type for the first time in several weeks I found a piece of paper in my typewriter with this little statement; "Grandfather: whenever you get this, know that I love you. Thank you for your support and continual love. You mean a lot to me." It wasn't signed but I have a suspicion who wrote it and I appreciate it.

So often appreciation is like much needed water on a thirsty plant. When we used to go down to Padre Island we would leave our plants for a week. They will look wilted when we come back, but then we pour water on them and they come out, just like people who've had appreciation poured on them.

Mary Alice and I were attending a couples' meeting. Before it started we were shaking hands with those we didn't know. As we walked up and introduced ourselves it was a very casual greeting, then suddenly the woman's eyes lit up and she said to Mary Alice, "You are Fred, Jr.'s mother, aren't you? I will never be able to express my appreciation to him for he kept our son from failing. He didn't give up, even when our son didn't seem worth the effort." Our son Fred had been more than a teacher --- he had given this young man the gift of encouragement.

One of the great teachers I know is Dr. Herbert True who teaches management at Notre Dame and St. Mary's. At the beginning of every semester he asks his students to write down a number - it is his home phone. He tells them if they have any kind of a problem to please talk to at least one other person first, but if they don't get the answer, then they are to call him, day or night. While speaking to a very large group on financial freedom Herb's story came to mind. I told the group that when they got all their bills paid, with the exception of their mortgage, that they could call me and let me be happy with them. Then I gave them my phone number. Afterwards a lady came up with tears in her eyes and said, "My husband walked out on me four years ago and left me with bills and children." She then put her finger in my chest and said, "But I'm gonna call you, I'm gonna call you."

Not a present wrapped in a Tiffany gift box, nor the keys to an expensive luxury automobile, but I had been given the joy of giving her the gift of encouragement. My good friend, Zig Ziglar hits this one on the head when he shows us how to "catch somebody doing something good." That, my friend, is giving the gift of appreciation and encouragement.