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Ventura County Perspective

Sad News Reminds Us: Some Paths Will Never Cross Again

Recognition and acknowledgment are not costly, yet most people hold back. But later may be too late for kind words.

May 21, 2000|SHLOMO KREITZER | Shlomo Kreitzer lives in Camarillo

The news media constantly tell us about people who have died suddenly, unexpectedly, people of all ages. We read about plane or car crashes, shootings, accidents. Deaths from sudden illnesses don't usually make the news.

It is tragic when someone dies prematurely. It is perhaps even more tragic when someone dies and there are "leftover" good things that they did not hear because they were never said.

I've heard wonderful remarks delivered at the funerals and memorial services. That is nice but too late. How sad to lament, "I never told her how much she meant to me."

What makes us hold back from saying things like, "I've learned so much from you" or "I appreciate what you've done for me" or "I'm glad you are in my life."

I think I know the answer. We fear that it is too emotional, too direct, too personal. We fear that we might cry or that the other person might be embarrassed.

True, such a compliment might well lead to an intimate moment, a moment of significant connection. Unfortunately, we define that moment as bad, something to be avoided. Therefore, in many cases, we choose not to say those words--preferring to save them for later. But as those sad items in the news keep reminding us, sometimes "later" never comes.

This is true even with casual relationships. Over the years, I have fought my own busy-ness and stress and tried to stop and express my appreciation to people around me. Doing so has been an extraordinary experience. People are surprised; they are touched by my often simple compliments. Is receiving a compliment a rare thing? Or do people distrust compliments--suspecting that compliments are what comes just before someone asks a favor or delivers a criticism?

Recently I overheard a clerk at a Ventura County medical clinic speaking on the phone, trying with great patience to explain something to a patient who just couldn't grasp it. There was no hardness or impatience in her voice; she spoke as if the stranger were her friend. I was touched by the gift that she was giving to the worried, confused patient. Later, I told the clerk her how much I appreciated how she had helped that last caller. She was surprised and blushed a little. Then, with great intensity, she said, "Thank you so much; you've made my day."

I made her day?

I recently needed to speak to a physician over a weekend. I spoke with one who was backing up my usual doctor. She was very patient, listened to my whole story, asked some questions, made a recommendation, asked if that was OK and, only then, got off the phone.

First of all, that was remarkable. But then I got another surprise. When I next saw my own physician, I told her how much I appreciated the way the backup doctor had spoken with me. She said, "I'll have to be sure to relay that to her; it's always nice to hear good things."

Does that mean that in the haste and stress of medical work, physicians rarely get complimented? Do most of us go around in a world that is that devoid of compliments? How many compliments or appreciations did you get today? This week? How many did you give? Isn't this something we all have the ability to give? It's not too costly.

I would hate to think that there are a lot of people going around who could use an acknowledgment, a compliment, but don't get it--a spouse, a child, a parent, a neighbor, a sibling, a teacher, a co-worker, an employee, a clerk, an anonymous person on the phone, even your boss. What a shame it is that many of us go through our days with so little recognition.

My suggestion: Don't save it for the funeral. Your path may never cross this person's again. Later may not come.

Each of us has the ability to give a significant gift, worth more than money. Let no good deed go unrecognized. Say it now.

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