I present my Active Appreciation workshop in a variety of settings, and so sometimes I race through the examples. I wanted to share a few of them up close in a blog and explain the WHY they are important. While all of these are Thank You notes written to me, I share them not to boast, but rather to highlight some incredible creativity and kindness others took the time to share.
Example 1: The Coloring Book
During my senior year of high school I served as the Key Club Governor for the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of Key Club International. In 1997, we had our big Summer Board meeting which was a huge team building and planning session for the year. Our schedule allowed about 4-5 hours of committee meetings, providing each group enough time to really create a plan to involved our 20K+ members in the district. As Governor, I was an ex-officio member of each committee and while I did pop into each committee for a few minutes, I ended up being the one person at the board meeting with a lot of free time. One of the Kiwanis advisors present had brought his two young girls with him. I ended up spending about 3 hours with them–coloring, playing Barbie, playing tag, etc. It was a lot of fun.
The following day we concluded the long business portion of the board meeting. On my way out, one of the girls came up to me and handed me the coloring book page you see pictured. This wasn’t one of the pages we had done before. She did this one special. She talked with her dad to see how she could make the letters to spell my name and her name. It meant the world to me and I’ve kept it for 20 years. She’s long since graduated college and is very successful in her career–but I’ll never forget the kindness of this little girl who wanted to thank me for playing.
This took her TIME and EFFORT. It wasn’t something quick. Our time is our most valuable resources and it means so much to share it with others.
Example 2: The Popsicle
Right before my senior year of college, I worked as the Welcome Week Coordinator for Arizona State University. It was practically a full-time job for that summer leading up to that one week right the start of the new school year. One day I showed up to my desk to work on some random Tuesday in July. I still had over a month before the big week actually hit. I had only completed 1-2 of the many to-do list items, and still had a long list of partially completed projects and or projects left to start.
And yet, I walked in and there was a small envelop on my desk. I opened it up and found this popsicle. Funny initially because Arizona is unbearably hot during the summer time and even in the early morning you crave a popsicle. It is a store bought Hallmark Card, but it was made even more personal and specific as they used each popsicle stick on the interior of the card to describe a trait they liked about me.
My supervisors were out of the office that day coordinating one of the many summer
orientation program days, but my productivity doubled that day and kept up at a higher pace for the rest of the summer allowing us to implement some neat initiatives that ASU continued to use for years to come.
The Unexpected and Specific Really Resonate with the Individual
Example 3: Binder Paper, Computer Paper, Markers, and Masking Tape
Right after I stopped working as a teacher and considered working full-time as a speaker, I got connected with another speaker who put on a summer leadership camp. It just so happened that this was the very same camp that my cousin’s fiancée attended back when she was a high school student and now as an adult spent a bit of her time working at. She and I had briefly met on two prior occasions talking for just a few minutes here and there, but at this camp we had an incredible chance to get to know one another. We both were pretty happy that in a year she’d marry my cousin and we’d be family.
On the last night of the last camp, she handed me this. It isn’t anything store bought. She found the single piece of computer paper, markers, and masking tape that make up the envelop amongst the office supplies we had in the camp office. She tore one piece of binder paper out of her binder and wrote me the kindest note.
It’s been well over a decade and it remains one of the best thank you notes I’ve ever received. I can’t read it too often as it brings a tear to my eye as I think about the many happy memories shared since. Their kids are some of my favorite people in the world and rarely does a week go by where we all haven’t communicated in some way.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to really recognize and/or appreciate someone. Our time and our words can provide the biggest impact.
Example 4: The Creative Surprise
I wasn’t sure if speaking would be a full-time job for me or if there might be something else for me out there. As a minor test, I contacted my alma-mater and returned to present a leadership lesson to the high school leaders. I wasn’t that great back then, but I was trying new things. I thought I’d do a lesson on paradigms, so I opened up by asking (a very poor question): “Does anyone know what a paradigm is?”
After a bit of silence, a student responded with “Twenty Cents.”
Everyone (including me) laughed.
It helped me and everyone relax and after a bit of a rocky start, the rest of the lesson went went. A few days later I received a note in the mail. It included the signatures of all of the leadership students. It also included a dollar bill which was & is the first dollar I ever made as a professional speaker. The students also used the lamination machine for the old school IDs and presented me the pictured card.
I don’t speak about paradigms too often these days, but if I do, I always pack this card. It’s something so specific to our day and our time spent together. This card wouldn’t mean the same to any other speaker they’d hire to the school.
The Specific and Creative Bring the Most joy.
Example 5: The Big Thank You
Many years ago, I had the privilege of helping out Quartz Hill HS with their ASB retreat. We did a variety of team building activities in the morning, had a nice lunchtime break, and then did mini-workshops after lunch, some lead by upperclassmen ASB officers, and one lead by me. That year they asked me to present my full Active Appreciation workshop to the leaders. We wrapped up the day with a nice closing and I headed home.
A few days later I received a thicker envelop in the mail with this inside. When opened it’s close t0 six feet in length.
Not only had they taken the time craft-wise, but they had taken the time message-wise witch each student writing a sentence or two of thanks for the day. I loved it so much I immediately called up the advisor to thank him for such a cool note. He told me it was the students’ idea.
I think that is where we hit a nice intersection, where the students take pride in something like this and make it a priority as well. I know QHHS had a really successful year that year–a large part of that was due to their incredible advisors and some really strong ASB Executive Officers, but I also like to think part of it has to do with the connection that ASB felt that year–the advisor told me students continued to thank and recognize one another throughout the year and it just increased the sense of unity.
The Unexpected/Creative Thanks Inspire Us to Work a Bit More.