Learning to appreciate


I was at the Rainbow Estate market one afternoon buying some vegetables.
I stopped at a stall selling capsicum in a variety of colours. I chose three of my favourite ones, plus some ginger and garlic. I handed the money over and was surprised to see a pair of little hands stretch forward to receive the K10 note.
The boy was no more than six or seven years old. He began whispering quietly to himself as he calculated my purchase which I totalled up to be K8.50. Hethen counted K1.50 in coins and gave them to me. He was spot on!
I was so surprised that a little fellow that young could calculate change. I thanked the lad and gave him a thumbs up, telling him that he was a very smart little boy. Then my second surprise – when I thanked him, he said “You’re welcome,”and when I commended him, he said “thank you”!
My two-fold surprise that afternoon was quite obvious. Firstly, I haven’t seen too many little kids change customers’ money, especially when it is not a small amount like K2. But secondly, my surprise was because the child responded very politely to the appreciation I showed him. I say surprise because I know many adults who don’t know how to say “please”, “thank you”– or even, “you’re welcome”! I take my hat off to his parents who I suppose were the ones who taught him good manners, and of course, how to calculate change.
Showing good manners as adults is important for fostering good relationships with other people. But it is equally important because we will be teaching values to our kids who are watching us. Among the many good manners and traits we can teach them, I believe one of the most important is being appreciative. In short, saying thank you.
I heard an interview on ABC radio last week about an “Appreciation Day” that was to be celebrated. I went online and found that there are so many ‘appreciation day’ events every year – everything from possum appreciation day, horse appreciation day, employee appreciation day, boss appreciation day,pastor appreciation day (that’s a good one!), and others.
So there seem to be days set apart to appreciate anything and everything. Even our famous Mothers’, Fathers’ and Children’s days are days that draw our attention, even for one day, to appreciate these people of importance. But are we naturally appreciative?
Driving around the city on any given day, you will notice how ungrateful and unappreciative some of our people are. Spitting of betel nut on freshly laid pavements, graffiti on bus stops which a foreign government has kindly donated to us, and damaging assets which cost our government millions of kina to purchase.
Attitude problems? Yes, with an unappreciative demonised spirit directing the actions. Yet, on the contrary, God’s word teaches us that to appreciate others is to show them respect and honour (see Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 5: 12-18; 1 Tim 5:17; 6:1; 1 Peter 2:17; Hebrews 12:28-29).
William James, the father of psychology, stated that the most fundamental psychological need is to be appreciated. We all want to feel fully appreciated for our work. Look at a small boy who is always told he cannot do things right. His wings have effectively been clipped. But try to appreciate him – even for one small effort that he has made – and watch him soar!
For leaders or bosses at the work place, you will find that your staff will be more productive when you appreciate theminstead of always berating them and putting them down.
Many husbands will tell you that they appreciate their wives. Ask their wives and they will tell you something else. It is because many times, our cultural hang ups cause us to not verbalise our appreciation. Even the word, “thank you” is too hard for some husbands to say to their hard working wives!
Commentator Lee Colan says, “We often do not convert our invisible thoughts of appreciation into visible acts of appreciation. Showing appreciation is not a matter of time and intention; rather, it’s a matter of priority and action.”
A survey some years ago was carried out to prove that appreciation can raise the level of productivity in the workplace; and likewise, a simple word of appreciation from one spouse to another can even save a marriage.
If we in PNG had our own “Appreciation Day”, how would it look? Firstly, our Melanesian culture teaches us that we appreciate not by words only, but by action. In fact, “thank you” is a foreign word. In my Motuan language, I don’t think I have come across a word called ‘thank you’. We actually say, tanikiu which is thank you in our accent.
But we do show thank you. For example, to appreciate your brother’s help, you send him the biggest bunch of banana from your garden. That speaks much louder that a thank you!
But we don’t live in the past. Today, we can’t run around with bunches of bananas to thank people. In today’s modern PNG, things are different. For instance, we can tell the office cleaner lady that we truly appreciate her hard work to keep the place clean and tidy; we can send an email to thank someone who we feel has been an encouragement to us; or a husband can tell his wife how much he appreciates all her hard work in keeping the house and clothes clean while the family is away at school and work (but for this, I suggest a good gift should go with the complement, or else)!
It is true that culture plays a big partin determining how we appreciate. We must make sure that our appreciation is appreciated!
Like the wantok who went to Australia for study and learnt about their way of giving a bunch of flowers to your wife to appreciate her. One afternoon, he came home to the village with a lovely bouquet of flowers. On seeing them, the wife angrily said, “I am a cow and you are giving me leaves to eat? Where is my Big Rooster?”
In conclusion, being appreciative is the best thing we can do for others and for ourselves. We can start by being appreciative to God for His love towards us which He shows in many different ways every day (Ps 92:1-2).
Then, we can extend that attitude to others by appreciating them and giving them value. And as we do, we will be teaching these godly values of gratitude, honour and respect to our children which will impact our nation for the better.

lRev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.