When I was a young girl growing up, my father would occasionally remind me and my two sisters that it was important in life to “Give bouquets to people when they are alive, don’t wait until the funeral!” Eventually we matured enough to understand what he meant – that it is better to show appreciation when your chosen recipient is alive and you both can fully enjoy it. That message stayed with me into my adulthood, and I gradually cultivated an attitude of gratitude. The appreciation of my blessings in life was a conscious process that was acquired over time, and eventually, grew into a positive habit.
When you begin to focus on looking for things to appreciate then that becomes the world you live in. Gifts of natural beauty seem to be everywhere; acts of kindness seem to happen more and more around you; and the simple joy of waking up with a sense of gratitude for the day that lies ahead is a priceless treasure. Being in a state of appreciation naturally begets a desire to share it with others as often as possible.
One of the best parts of being a Celebrant is providing verbal bouquets to my clients during a ceremony, a ritual, or a special gathering. It is not only a pleasure to give support to someone in the form of sincere praise, but the residual benefit of receiving that same energy in the feedback loop that naturally occurs, is wonderful. There is a Chinese proverb that expresses it beautifully: “A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives flowers.”
In wedding ceremonies that I officiate, I tell the couple’s love story of how they met and I always include what they have told me that they love about one another. Telling the groom, on behalf of the bride, and in the presence of their family and friends, that she loves his quiet strength, his ability to make her laugh, and his kindness makes his eyes shine and his whole face light up. Then, in turn, sharing with the bride what the groom loves about her - the loving way she cares for her stepchildren, her affectionate nature, and steady calmness - brings a soft glow to her facial expression as if it were the glow of candlelight.
As the audience listens and experiences the bride and groom’s story, they smile, wipe tears away, and bask in the warmth of the couple’s love for one another, amplified by the pride and affection they already feel for them. It becomes a love fest! An appreciation garden in full bloom! The positive energy in the room rises and lights it up, and a palpable sense of closeness, affection, and community encircles everyone as witnesses to the miracle of love.
I encourage you to give as many verbal bouquets as you can to everyone in your life, including you! Pay attention to the people around you, notice them and comment on what you see with positive feedback; once that positive energy is set into motion, it leads to more positive interactions, more smiles, more shining eyes, more joy, and a greater contentment at the end of the day.
There is a Jewish teaching that tells us that “The work is great and the time is short. It is not your job to finish the task, but neither are you are free to desist from it.” So often we imagine ourselves impotent to make a difference in the world. After all, the problems are too great and we tell ourselves that we are not wise enough, wealthy enough, or powerful enough to change the world. Thus, feeling defeated, we choose to do nothing at all. Yet giving verbal bouquets of appreciation costs nothing; it is available to everyone; it is in abundance if we choose to exercise it in our daily lives, and we know that it matters and it makes a difference.
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