I wanted a story to illustrate why the Appreciation Feast activity is so powerful and life changing. It was then that I remembered an article about a US soldier who carried in his pocket a worn, brown piece of paper. On that paper was a bunch of childrens’ handwriting .
No one could have known that Mark Eklund had been carrying that paper with him since the third grade. The reason they found out was because he was killed on the battlefield in Vietnam.
At his funeral, Sister Helen, his third grade teacher, was there with several of his classmates. It was only then that Sister Helen discovered her little classroom exercise had meant so much to the children. So much so, that even years later, many of them still had that little piece of paper.
I wanted to know what could have been so important that a person would carry that piece of paper around for almost a decade or maybe even more.
It was something so simple, so common that the message can often go unnoticed. In the busyness of our lives, we often forget that we are social creatures at heart, and that, connection and meaning are essential to our well being.
On that day, back in the third grade, Sister Helen had each child write on a piece of paper the nicest thing they could say about each child in the class. Everyone wrote a sentence and everyone got the sheet of paper.
They get to see themselves through others’ eyes, and that experience can change not only their world vie, but how they view themselves, as well — Christine Jeffrey
The impact of that simple exercise helped Mark and his other classmates through the hard times, through the dark times, and through the times when we all struggle and may ask, “What’s the point?”
Inspired by her example, I modified a practice called, “The Appreciation Feast” to not only tell people – to their face – the good about them, but also to practice saying it outloud!
We don’t hear good words and praise enough. Let me be clear: I am not talking about the kind of praise and good words that says, “Great job!” Or praise that comes without effort; I am talking about the kind of praise that recognizes who we are as individuals (our qualities of being) and in that small act of recognition, people reconnect with that part of themselves.
When they reconnect, they experience more of what they are, and not just in the areas that they tend to focus on. They get to see themselves through others’ eyes, and that experience can change their world view.
An example of this kind of praising would be, ” I really appreciate how hard you try to do the right thing, and it touches me that you care so deeply about getting it right.”
In our culture, we focus so much on what we don’t do right: the weaknesses that must be improved, the shortfalls that have to be “fixed,” and we tend to forget all the things we do do right. Yes, growth means improvement, but growth also means recognizing and appreciating how far we’ve come, as well.
In this short video, you get the idea of how meaningful this feast can be. Check it out below:
In Four Easy Steps – You can create an event to remember not only because the food was amazing, but because you connected in a way that can be life changing for those who partiipated. This is what you do:
- Everybody brings their faves: favorite music, favorite food, favorite story, and favorite drinks to share. Contribution is key. When you contribute, you have skin in the game.
- During the meal, each person will stand up in turn and listen while everyone else shares what they like, admire, appreciate or care about the person.
- Play Table Topics or any sort of Q and A game that causes everyone to learn something new about each other.
- After the meal, break a way into couples and interview each other on what you stand for, and what matters most to you. You can use the Story Corps App for this if you would like.
This is a recipe, if you change the ingredients or the order you change the result. If you want a result that primes you and others to be confident, courageous and act in alignment with your best selves, do the steps as outlined above,
*Below is a brief description of Table Topics and Story Corps
Table Topics. So much fun to play, but you don’t need to buy the game. Just look on the internet for some cool questions to share with your family and friends. The answers may surprise you!
Story Corps. Download the free app and use their questions or come up with your own. Interview a friend, or family member and record the conversations. You can choose to upload to the Library of Congress through the StoryCorps app to have future generations hear what that person has to say.
It is just so cool to not only get to know someone better, but to have their voice and their point of view saved for all time. What would it be like for your great-great-great-great grand child to be able to actually hear from your mouth what you have to say?! This short fun video below outlines Story Corps mission and you can learn more about StoryCorps here
The goal of the Appreciation Feast is to create the opportunity for you to share your care with those around you, and when you do, you not only make some meaningful memories, you encourage others to spread the love.
But there is also an added benefit. The more you practice this skill, the better you get at speaking about how you feel and what matters most to you!
Go have some fun!
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Thanks for reading, and until next time,
Remember, there is so much more to you than the sum of your experiences and your circumstances!
Coach “I’ve Got Your Back”
*Image above: StillFX/iStock