I know that it wasn’t meant to be, but Facebook has become something of an interesting sociology study for those of us who care to pay attention. It’s amazing you learn about your friends and about people in general by watching the various status updates they post. I’m sure it would be much different if I was 15 years younger—I’d spend my time reading about which parties were fun and who hooked up with whom. My social circle, on the whole, is a bit past that though. My friends are living for the weekend so that they can spend time with family and get things done around the house. It’s pretty boring really.
Some people (okay, maybe me) try to be funny in their posts, others are constantly trying to help the rest of us find Jesus (apparently he’s lost). Some post pictures of kids and vacations. Some are on crusades to end child abuse by changing their profile picture to a cartoon character from their own childhood (no one has been able to explain to me exactly how that works though). If you pay attention to all of this you can really learn a lot about the people you supposedly already know.
By far though, the most commonly repeated status sentiment is that people want to be appreciated. On any given day, I can sign in and see that a teacher, police officer, firefighter, active military personnel, military wife, veteran or nurse is feeling neglected and take the opportunity to remind the rest of the world that we are lucky that they do what they do for us.
I don’t dispute this. We are lucky. There’s a good chance you owe quite a bit of appreciation to any or all of these people. I know I do.
I suppose where I have a difference in opinion is the part where I am supposed to acknowledge and leave a note, re-post it if I agree or “like” this status—or the sentiment behind it. And granted, I certainly have the right to just pass it by if I so choose but these things really start to bug me after a while.
The idea that these certain professions are of greater nobility than others is the part that irritates me. Last I checked, all of the people I listed above—directly or indirectly, are getting paid for what they do. With the exception of the military personnel and veterans, the people who do these jobs are doing it for the paycheck. This isn’t to say that it’s not a calling for some of them and that they don’t devote their entire being to doing it well. What I’m saying is that I’ve had more bad teachers than I’ve had good ones. I’ve been treated rudely by more nurses than those by whom I’ve felt truly cared for; I’ve witnessed police and fire professionals using their jobs to gain free food and tickets to the game. I’ve been pulled over and given tickets by police officers who have treated me like I was the scum of the Earth for going five miles an hour over the speed limit—no matter how respectful I was of them.
Now my friends are my friends because I believe them to be good people. I have no doubt that they do their jobs and do them well for reasons that go far above and beyond the paycheck. Still though, I have a problem universally appreciating their professions. A police officer will tell you that we should appreciate them because they keep us safe. True enough. Without construction workers we’d have no homes to live in or roads to drive on though. I’ve never seen any of my friends who work construction asking to be appreciated. A nurse will tell you that they are on the front lines, taking care of you when you are sick. They certainly are. You’re more likely to see the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause tap-dancing down the halls than you are to see your doctor more than once a day while you’re in the hospital. Of course, you’d starve if not for the people down in the kitchen making your food.
The point isn’t that we shouldn’t appreciate nurses and cops and firefighters. We should! The idea that we should appreciate them because they somehow live a higher calling than the rest of us is bullshit though. We all make the world a better place in whatever way we can. We all deserve to be appreciated for that. The customer service representative who helps you fix some problem, the mechanic who gets your car running, the person behind the deli counter who slices your lunchmeat extra thin the way you like it. Appreciation should be given for how you do your job not just because of the job itself.
A good teacher imparts a value that cannot be repaid in a lifetime. The difference between a good nurse and a bad one can mean life and death. Police officers and firefighters often have to put themselves into harm’s way so that we can be safe. Our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Seamen and Guardsmen selflessly fight for principles most of us have long forgotten and take for granted every day. Their spouses are forced to raise families on low income and too often on their own. These people deserve appreciation but are any of these people truly more noble than a single mother who works three low-wage jobs waiting tables to support her kids? I say no.
You deserve appreciation because of who you are and what you do, not for the job you hold. And we all want and need to feel appreciated. We all do the best we can. We all try to make the world a better place in our own way. And though appreciation is always nice, the people who truly make a difference in the world don’t do so for the appreciation. The joy of service isn’t in the thank you, it’s in the difference you make in the world around you. The truly noble don’t pander for appreciation, it’s nice, but it’s not the high they get from simply doing good, doing right and not allowing all of the shit in the world to drag them down to it’s level.
If you take anything away from this take the reminder that we all need and deserve to be appreciated. We can all use a reminder that the things we do make a difference in the lives of others. If the smile on the face of the barista at your local coffee shop is infectious and starts you off in a good mood—tell them so. If someone holds a door open for you, look them in the eye and say thank you. If you know a single parent who struggles to get by it’s okay to let them know that you admire them. And yes, when your life is touched by any of the people I’ve talked about through this piece, don’t just take what they do for you for granted. Let them know how much it means to you.
We all want to be appreciated. We all want to feel important. We all want to know that the things we do to make a difference are noticed by others and that we are valued and respected for them. And the next time you feel the urge to post a plea for that appreciation, for that value and respect, show that you are truly a noble person by choosing instead to give some thought to those people in your own life who might feel underappreciated and take the opportunity to make them feel valued instead.
“And I hear them saying you’ll never change things
And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me.” -Garth Brooks, The Change