The young woman had worked diligently for four years with a program in which she had once been a participant. Untold hours of volunteer work for a space camp function that touched her life years earlier encouraged the organization to give her a wood plaque of appreciation. She was touched and fought back the tears. It wasn't the plaque.
What prompted the tears, I believe, was the meaningfulness of her experiences, which then inspired her commitment that yielded the recognition. What I really heard in her speech was "thank you for being meaningful to me and my life," and not "thank you for recognizing me." Can there be greater value to someone than to be meaningful in their lives, and can there be greater recognition than to be told of that meaning?
She accepted the plaque and expressed her appreciation for it. Everyone heard that. She said that the experiences of being in the camp as a young adult were among the most special in her life and those are what inspired her service. I hope everyone heard that.
The meaning of and in the things we do provide the motivation and the reward. It transforms our lives and moves us to actions that, invariably, change the lives of others, too.
As I sat on the stage and listened, I also wondered. Do the things that I do as manager, father and husband allow for, and encourage, meaningful work and experiences for those around me? Do I ask of and encourage in others the works that check off "to do" boxes or those that provide value and purpose to the doer and the receiver? The plaques, certificates and coffee cups of acknowledgement matter little without allowing for the meaning that precedes them. Same for hugs and kisses. Meaning matters.
Listen to Life is a free newsletter about learning and getting more from life by paying attention to our own stories and the stories of others, based on the presentations, writings, photography and workshops by Dion McInnis (www.dionmcinnis.com). Copyright 2009 Dion McInnis. All rights reserved.