“And how will you know unless I tell you?” : Don’t withhold those words of admiration | Sunday Observer

“And how will you know unless I tell you?” : Don’t withhold those words of admiration

Heavy rains slashed across the window, further lowering my spirits, already depressed by a long convalescence. Get-well cards had stopped coming in. A faded chrysanthemum plant, a gift from office staff, was all that remained of the flowers I had received. I felt lonely, unimportant, forgotten by a world that apparently was doing very well without me.

Then, the mail arrived, bringing a note from the young receptionist, the lady I passed each morning on my way to my room. She wrote, “This morning before beginning to work I thought I should write these few words to you. I miss your smile and your wave every day since you’ve been ill.

“I pray to God every night that you’ll be well soon. You’re probably surprised at receiving this note, but the world for me is a less happy place without you. And how will you know unless I tell you?”

Suddenly, the paralyzing sense of despair slipped away. Someone missed me; someone needed me. That knowledge proved more effective than any medicine the doctor could prescribe.

I reread the words carefully, and the last sentence held my attention: “How will you know unless I tell you?” She is right! I wouldn’t have known, of course, and I would still have been lonely and depressed.

Words of love

How can any of us know what’s in the minds and hearts of others - unless we receive some word, some gesture? Most of us in this sophisticated, de-humanized age have placed check-reins on our emotions. We withhold words of love, admiration and approval.

And yet, those words might give some unhappy person a moment of joy or help him cope with deep despair. They might even become the few bright threads in the dull fabric of his life.

I recalled, on my last visit to the supermarket the man ahead of me smiled warmly at the harried checkout girl and complimented her for bagging his purchases so carefully. She seemed startled at this unexpected praise, but her face lit up, and the tired, tense lines disappeared. She thanked him warmly, then turned to wait on me with a bright smile and cheerful greeting.

Everyone needs to be noticed and appreciated. Each of us have countless opportunities at work, at school, on the railway or bus, to speak out and meet those needs. And in doing so, we may set off chain reactions of goodwill.

Of course, we can’t always be overly optimistic. There are times when adverse criticism is justified. And, how it is given can make all the difference. I know a General Manager who speaks out when he is dissatisfied, but prefaces his complaints with recognition of some worthwhile achievement.

He does so tactfully, by offering solutions for improvement. He has discovered that his criticisms are usually welcome and his suggestions are accepted courteously.

Most of us want to be told how we are doing. If our best efforts are met with silence, we tend to become careless and negligent. This is a fact of life.

We face choices every day. Either we can speak out or say nothing. Our decision may not affect anyone. But then again it may. It may even, on rare occasions, determine the course of a human life.

Thank-you card

A young student teacher I once knew was assigned to be an instructor for sixth-graders for a three-day class outing. She enthusiastically and painstakingly planned a variety of experiences for these city youngsters, hoping to share with them her love of the fields and the woods. But the outing was a complete disaster. It rained two of the three days, and the children were restless and uncooperative.

When at last, the youngsters were packing to return to town, she was in tears when she met the teacher-in-charge. “I wasn’t sure before,” she said, “but now I know. I can never work with children. I’m just not cut out for it.”

The teacher-in-charge was shocked. “What a loss! With a little more maturity, this fine, sensitive young lady would make an outstanding teacher,” she thought.

Then, as the children scrambled aboard the bus, one girl lingered behind and, after a moment, came towards the instructor. “I want to thank you for the things you taught us. You know, I never listened to the wind in the trees before. It’s a lovely sound, and I’ll never forget it. I wrote a thank-you card for you. I almost forgot to give it to you.”

She handed over a slip of paper to her instructor, then ran to join the others. After reading the few penciled lines, the young teacher looked up at the sky with tears in her eyes. The teacher-in-charge breathed a prayer of thanks to the child who had made the right choice. She knew that because of the child’s gesture hundreds of children would enjoy the affection and guidance of a fine teacher.

Assurances of love

If words of loving approval are so important at the beginning of a career, they are even more important at the beginning of life.

Children have not yet learned from experience that time heals most sorrows, that bad times are followed by good, that failures are usually interspersed with successes. Admittedly, they must have guidance and consistent discipline if they are to become sound citizens.

But above all else, children crave for spoken assurances of love and approval. Love locked in our hearts doesn’t reach them; it is like a letter written and not sent.

If they are to become emotionally secure, they must hear: I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m glad you’re here. A soft voice, friendly eyes and gentle words will convey the message even to a baby. The receptionist’s note had started this train of thought.And then an idea formed in my mind. About a kilometer from my home, an elderly lady had cleared the roadside of litter and planted flowers in its place. I never pass by without a sense of joy, a lifting of the spirits. Surely, the lady would be happy to know that. But how would she know unless I told her?