Wheat field With Crows, Van Gogh, 1890 (believed to be Van Gogh's last painting)
" … you probably don't know what I would say."

I speak today of Appreciations, those most curious of the many human expressions. A single appreciation, properly done between a single one and a single other, cannot scale, though some of us more shy ones will attempt to execute a blanket appreciation addressed to "You Guys" or "everyone." These fail to satisfy the underlying purpose of an appreciation because they are at root and inescapably an expression of a personal relationship. Any relationship seems threatened by being taken for granted. Continuing proximity need not necessarily breed contempt, but more often a certain complacency, an apparent indifference to its own continuation, a natural by-product of familiarity. Eventually, repeated, such casual interaction might easily spark certain questions such as, "Does he even care that I'm here?" The universal cure for such conditions lies in the skillful application of Appreciations.

Not that Appreciating's all skill, quite the opposite.
An appreciation might first be better described as an upwelling, an emotional expression which, like all emotional expressions, might appear rather rough, perhaps even rude. Nobody needs an unsolicited hug or to be bushwhacked by unanticipatable emotional content. We're easily overwhelmed and might well feel put off by another's clumsy attempt to more deeply connect. One minute, I'm wondering whether my presence has been appreciated and the next, washed over by a flood of unexpected connection. Anyone might feel moved to run, screaming for the nearest exit. I believe that Appreciations are indeed emotional expressions, but ones cultured by an understanding or two.

First, few ever expect an appreciation, and might not know how to receive one. When stumbling into one, the first response might subtly reject the intrusion with some variant of an Oh, Shucks Response, a sort of an apology as if to say, "Sorry I committed that intrusion. I'll try to be stealthier next time." While the received appreciation might appear sincere, the receiver of it might well work hard to down-play its significance, perhaps embarrassed at the sudden notoriety, and a produce a Don't Mention It Acceptance, which feels disappointing to everyone involved. The poor appreciator, then, might slink off thinking he won't soon so expose himself again, feeling rejected in his attempt to transcend the day-to-day superficial. Both feel exposed, and no one really knows beforehand what might transpire when bridging the space between. A humble Thank You serves as both a humble acceptance and an entirely appropriate response.

Second, I believe that few fully appreciate just how to pass an appreciation. As I said above, the blanket You Guys Tactic never rises above the superficial and blunts the intended positive impact. A decent appreciation prefers a little context, but perhaps never any more than a little of it. Face-to-face, chest to chest, the appreciator stands before the appreciated. Eye contact ensues until achieving attention, more or less undivided. A name passes from the usually tight lips of the budding appreciator, the name every appreciated secretly deeply longs to hear. Their own name on another's lips, followed by a brief, only rarely ever gushing, thank you. "David, thank you for (insert specific description of the mitzvah received.)" A handshake or a by then properly conditioned hug might then occur. Pseudo stand-in mitzvahs such as "for being here" or "for your energy" might prove acceptable, but these probably blunt the intended impact. The best expressions rather take one's breath away for they recognize the difference a presence made, a state nobody can ever properly assess for themselves.

An appreciation serves as a gift, not a transaction. The appreciator is not trying to repay the appreciated and therefore not attempting to even any score, or even to better a contribution. A proper appreciation serves as a form of contrition, valued because it does not attempt to repay, but to merely recognize. A primal dilemma arises when the apparent need for a blanket appreciation arises, such as when I scroll through the long list of all you who stumbled through my GlancingKnow Story that morning. The numbers stagger me, typically dozens, rarely ever fewer than seventy or eighty, and while only a few ever deign to leave a "like" or a comment behind, I feel my humility expand as I watch this now daily familiar roster. I imagine each of you. I hardly feel worthy of your attention, of your time, so it means the world to me. I cannot stand before each of you, though if I could figure out the logistics, I'd gladly try to do exactly that, and line up my body with yours, look you directly in both eyes with both of mine, and disclose what could otherwise never be properly said. Thank you (insert your name here) for (what only you and I know about what your presence here means to me, and you probably don't know what I would say.) These will necessarily have to wait for the day when we do connect face-to-face, until then, I'll let each of you know that I have a small gift pending for you in deep appreciation for that (undisclosable here) contribution you've made to my story-making. Thanks.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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