Home / On the mark / The fine art of appreciation | Mark Larson
George Bailey (James Stewart), Mary Bailey (Donna Reed) and their youngest daughter Zuzu (Karolyn Grimes) in the American film It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Photo by National Telefilm Associates. Licensed under Public domain, Wikimedia Commons.

The fine art of appreciation | Mark Larson

I have come to realize that there is much to be appreciated about the word “appreciation.” In today’s culture it’s often used casually and without thought, making it lose meaning. If we consider the word in full context, we are able to grow gratefulness in daily life.

When prominent public figures pass away it’s not unusual to see a feature article headlined with the name of the deceased, followed by “AN APPRECIATION.”

Death reminds everyone of the good that is now missing and how significant a personality was to us. Sometimes it’s surprising to find out how much of a void there is, especially regarding those who aren’t necessarily famous, a la George Bailey’s story in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

We can appreciate lots of little things each day as well… if we choose to take the time. A beautiful sunset, an ice cream cone on a hot August night, the laughter of children or just having time to really relax.

Oxford’s American Dictionary defines the essence of appreciation this way:

appreciate: To value greatly, be grateful for, enjoy intelligently; To understand; To increase in value.

Roget’s Thesaurus adds:

To acknowledge; to realize the worth of; admire, respect, esteem; cherish, treasure, savor and be conscious of.

It’s that last line that especially gets my attention: Be conscious of.

How easy it is to busily progress through each day without pausing to appreciate much at all, lost in oblivion.

Just a few weeks ago, millions around the globe took time to appreciate World Cup Soccer. For many in the USA, that took some real doing. I speak from experience here.

Like many parents I was more into the game when my kids were young, playing on teams that usually featured gaggles of little ones buzzing around the field like bees, not sure of all the objectives.

But I would always appreciate their efforts and excitement in being part of it all. Maybe that’s why so many Americans who usually don’t usually care one bit about soccer found themselves consumed by teams they didn’t know existed. There were family roots in the game.

It was fascinating to watch men and women stop in their tracks when any World Cup “action” was on a nearby TV, drawn to the compelling nature of the contests, no matter who was playing.

(Let me just note, however, that World Cup “action” was often as compelling as watching paint dry.)

Still, moments of drama, trying to figure how the clock and rules worked, and exciting shoot-outs drew me in. When our US team was out, I would find some other angle. I wanted Chile, then Columbia because I have friends from (and in) both countries. I appreciated Brazil’s team, too, until their colossal collapse vs. Germany. But then I found I appreciated the loss, too, due to the historic magnitude of the event.

It was instructive and a learning experience. Then I remembered that when it was all over for another four years, life would go on. It was only a “game” (except for Brazilians of course). All that really mattered wasn’t who won, who lost, but who grew through the experience and enjoyed the process.

The point is that life can be—and should be—a daily appreciation experience. Too often we don’t really embrace a grateful heart until something or someone important is no longer available or with us.

Padres baseball star and Hall of Fame legend Tony Gwynn was loved by all. Everyone appreciated #19 and felt like they knew him personally. I was blessed to be his friend for 32 years. I also know I would sometimes take him for granted, as if he would be in our lives forever.

When he passed away in June after a long battle with cancer, the accolades were nonstop. Those “An Appreciation” articles appeared, and everyone shared tributes.

In the midst of it, and in the disbelief that he was really gone from this earth, I realized how much I appreciated about him that I knew through my unique connection to him over the years.

There was his laugh, of course, his honesty and work ethic, his smile and humility… and no one cared more for his family and community. Chats we shared, talking about faith and projects we worked on together. More things come to mind each day now, even as I keep his cell phone number in my contacts list… as if sometime he will answer again.

We all have our stories and events and people who make a difference in our lives each day. Seems to me that real blessings come when we figure out how to appreciate that which is taken for granted, in time to say thank you, to share encouragement and to simply to tell someone “I appreciate you”…while there are still ears to hear.

Mark Larson

 

— by Mark Larson

Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. His voice is heard on KPRZ 1210AM, and his weekday talkshow airs 6-9 a.m. on KCBQ 1170AM. Learn more at www.marklarson.com.

X