2! 4! 6! 8! Who do you underappreciate?

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I just spent over two hours of my life familiarizing myself with an editing program, (it’s my first time), and then actually editing a song for my daughter’s variety show, because it had to fit within a certain time frame.  Good grief!  One three minute song was all I needed!  I even had someone offer to do it for me but, I crave knowledge like dark chocolate.  I can never get enough.

Now I know some of my friends in this field of engineering would read this and laugh, thinking something along the lines of: “Two hours?  I would’ve had that song edited in 5 minutes!  Four, if I put my coffee down first!”  And, I have no trouble believing them.  This brings me to my point.

Appreciation.  It’s such a rare commodity these days.  We pay for something, we expect it now, no excuses, no delays.  Appreciation has fallen victim to the new age of entitlement.  Many of us are so busy either demanding services we paid good money for, or trying to ferret out why we were denied certain services we felt we deserved, we don’t stop to think of all the steps involved to make our craved product so conveniently available.

A fantastically talented musician friend of mine just posted a list on Facebook, detailing exactly what you are paying for when you hire a professional musician.  People often assume it is very expensive and over priced, “just to have the experience of live over recorded music” and yet, there is so much more to it!  People expect to benefit from years of training, good quality instruments, promotion fees, rehearsal, transportation, basic living costs to be healthy and perform to their best ability, and the list goes on. 

Music soothes the soul like nothing else!  It has the amazing effect to transport us back to a memory, or cause us to tense up when the bad guy is coming onscreen.  When my daughter was two years old, we were in the car and a dirge was playing softly.  In the midst of the dark, drawn out notes, I heard a sweet voice from the back seat say, “Mama, sad.”  People react to music and respond in a myriad of ways but very few ignore it, even if they are not consciously aware music is playing.

So, how do we keep from underappreciating people, from the barista who took extra time to shape your latte foam into something beautiful, to the musician who just shoved thousands of dollars worth of equipment into their cost effective car to travel who knows how long to play for several hours to earn a couple hundred dollars?  Here’s a challenge:

Do it yourself.  In high school, I played guitar for my youth group and spent hours teaching myself chords and keys and songs and learning from others.  I also marched in the band and finally landed first chair clarinet in concert band after many private lessons over the years.  I played my clarinet from junior high through high school and decided in order to really appreciate each musician’s effort, I needed to learn an instrument from different sections.  Did I mention my insatiable curiosity?  The Elephant’s Child has nothing on me!  I learned our school’s fight song on the tuba, the flute, the saxophone, and even gave the trombone a try. I have so much appreciation for the discipline of learning an instrument and making a career out of it.  I did not and so both of my children have taken violin for a year and have a guitar in their rooms and we have a keyboard so they can experience the art of learning.  We made the sacrifices (and still do), necessary to expose them to dance and sports and art classes and adventures of camping in a tent and fishing and life in general.

When my children ask for something, I try to instill in them the value of what they are expecting.  They help me bake from scratch, hopefully showing them, it takes time to create something out of nothing.  Desire of brownies to tangible chocolatey goodness on their tongues takes time.  Standing by while they create their own school projects with little physical involvement or verbal input from me is a lesson in patience and value for both of us! 

At restaurants when they are impatient for food, we discuss just what that food had to go through to become our meal, from seedling (or whatever origin is appropriate), to harvest, to processing, to presentation.  Then we practice common courtesy by looking the server in the eye and thanking them sincerely for the part they played in safely delivering our food.  No, this doesn’t happen every time, but it’s good to have goals, right?

How can you slow down and avoid the pitfalls of instant gratification and demand?  Who can you thank for being so diligent in their craft, they are a pleasure to experience?  I’d love to hear your stories and methods, leave a comment if you like!

Please prove you’re not a robot…you first!

It’s a fairly recent phenomenon, at least on the computer timeline.  Leaving a comment on a friend’s blog would only process for approval after I “proved I was not a robot” by typing in the blurry words provided by “the robot”.  Irony, anyone?  I’m assuming there is not a human just sitting waiting to get these words run across his or her screen typed correctly so he or she can press the “approved” button verifying the key tapper on the other end is in fact biological in nature.  And so, I can only assume another robot approved my non-robotic proof.  I would love the opportunity to type, YOU FIRST!  And then, my friend would never get my comment and sooooo, I behaved and conformed to the cyber rule of humanity verified via machine. Deus ex machina, anyone?

There are so very many metaphors apparent with this one statement, “Please prove you’re not a robot”. They all come down to authenticity, don’t they? Everywhere you look, we are bombarded with constant reminders of what we need to succeed. Clever jingles remind us we might have been born attractive but chances are, it’s really the makeup which allows us to be presentable in public. Even Abercrombie and Fitch is in trouble, or at least the CEO is, coming under fire for not selling XL clothes because he wants to “attract the cool kids”. There are so many choices out there for all of our daily needs and desires, it’s a wonder any business stays in business very long! So, how do we stay authentic? I’m glad you asked! You did ask, didn’t you?

Authenticity is not easy for everyone. In the truck today, my 6 year old daughter asked if we really “need” money. She has been pondering our misuse of money as a society ever since she found out about way back when’s bartering system. She feels we don’t really need money. Everyone should just do what they are good at and share equally with others and everyone will have what they need! It really is as basic as that, isn’t it? And yet, I had to explain to her that to live in our culture unfortunately, we do need money to live and pay bills for all the different basic necessities. However, I told her, if we lived with a tribe somewhere, wherever they may still exist, we would live on what was around us to be found and money would no longer be an issue. She gets it! She loved that idea! We didn’t talk menu of course, (no need to burst her bubble) but, she gets the basic idea of all the materialistic excess we wallow in, and even more amazing, she sees how distracting it is from relationships. She keeps me grounded, that little logical scientist!

I feel a bit like a social chameleon, most of the time. Having lived in different countries, I became very adept, very young, at blending into situations, observing the cultural norm and doing my best to copy it. There were many families who could not and would not incorporate the local culture in all the countries I lived in, demanding everyone else recognize where they were from and proudly refuse to be educated in the present culture and so they missed out on many treasures our family experienced because of our willingness to soak up what other’s had to offer. While in these situations however, I do my very best to be true to who I am, my inside values and ethics don’t change even though my body language and words do, according to the circumstance in which I find myself. For example, I wouldn’t follow a dare which compromised my morals just to fit in, or do anything else I don’t agree with to go along with the crowd but, I would change my syntax and etiquette to not stand out and to show appreciation for someone else’s turf. There are times I am not true as well, such as at my writer’s group. (That’s the most tame example I feel comfortable sharing, I know there are more, sigh.) Not sharing when I really should have, because it’s part of why I joined in the first place. Darn inner introvert was shining through, or perhaps that’s the wrong way to put it, I was dulling down to my subconscious self-conscious and not venturing out.

Are you authentic? Are you, YOU, no matter what? Are you able to adapt to surroundings instead of having them adapt to you? Or do you demand to stand out at the expense of others? Perhaps you don’t even realize what you’re missing. My challenge to you is take a deep breath, and hold it! Okay, that was metaphorically speaking, breathe! If you tend to be the loudest one in the room, try something new and, step back, observe and soak in. If you are the wallflower type, take a chance, step out and join in the mayhem surrounding you, it might be the best time of your life! Just stay the course, keep true to who you are, don’t be a robot and compromise your value. It might be an experience worth repeating.