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“Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition.”
Alexander Smith

Is there anything more valuable than the recognition by others for the work we do and the people we are? Financial rewards or fame are nice motivators, but nothing brings greater satisfaction as the sincere appreciation from others. I was reminded of this fact – and of our ability to be a part of it – by a most unlikely source.

A principal from a small elementary school that straddles the border between Kansas and Colorado inquired if we would be able to work with them in transforming attitudes resulting from a specific challenge they faced. One of their middle school students was born with many of her organs on the outside of her body. The doctors were stunned she even survived birth. Today she lives with significant damage to her heart, kidneys, intestines and stomach.

This little girl (and her family) has endured enormous challenges, faces significant health issues today, and will confront increased difficulties going forward. She’ll face yearly evasive surgeries necessitated to continue living. In spite of this, she had never shared with others just how traumatic her injuries were. Because she acted differently and missed so much school, students throughout the school were beginning to give her hard time. It was the hope of the principal, her staff and the mother that I could change the students’ attitudes.

I shared with the students my story and how everyone worked together in making possible the successful outcome. The children then asked wonderful questions, I answered them, and thanked them for their attention and questions. Then closed by saying, “the characteristic of courage runs throughout my story: it was present in the little boy who was burned, in the medical staff that treated him, in his parents and family who supported him, and in his own classmates who welcomed him back. Yet, the courage revealed in this story is just a fraction of the courage demonstrated everyday by one of your own classmates.”

I talked about the little girl, her bravery, all she had been through, how she was one of my heroes – and then asked her to stand up so we could all recognize her courage. From the middle of the bleachers, haltingly, came this sweet little girl with long red hair and glasses. She got down to the floor, walked toward me, and turned to face several hundred classmates. These students – just kids – rose to their feet and gave her a rousing standing ovation that lasted more than two minutes. The little girl wept.

The recognition she received may not change her physical life, but it certainly brought her immense joy and satisfaction that will remain in spite of the trials she certainly will face. It certainly proved to her that once the other student better understood her challenges they could be compassionate and loving. It certainly had a tremendous impact on me – it is my proudest moment as a speaker and one that I will never forget.

The most amazing part about recognition is that it is completely free to give and provides as much joy for the person initiating it as it does for the person receiving it. We each know we have the desire to be recognized. Let’s not forget we also have the potential to provide this amazing gift to others.
The choice is always ours.

John O’Leary, rising-above.com

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