Appreciation is a quality that is not only a great aid to happiness but is also very beneficial and helpful to all those with whom we come in contact. In other words, it is one of the traits of character which, while classified as a secondary trait, is extremely important to our own happiness as well as the happiness of others.
Appreciation divides itself into many classifications, chief of which are: appreciation of things, appreciation of services, appreciation of love, appreciation of people, appreciation of life, and appreciation of the Creator.
The appreciation of things is closely aligned with appreciation of services, but for practical purposes it means appreciation of things that can be seen, felt, tasted, or smelt. Wonderful scenery, beautiful pictures, flowers and trees, birds, animals, the majesty of the mountains, lakes, rivers, and the great seas and oceans, the sun, the moon and the stars, the green grass, the beauties of the cultivated land. There are literally thousands of nature’s gifts to human beings to make life more beautiful, more pleasant, and more interesting.
It is true that nature also has provided dangerous places, dangerous and annoying insects, reptiles, animals, and even dangerous fish and birds. It is true that nature has provided danger from wind, rain, sun, and disease. Danger, however, is one of the necessary adjuncts of human existence, and life is supposed to be a continuous battle. To think of life as being otherwise is suicidal. We have to perpetually battle evil from the moral standpoint, ignorance from the standpoint of wisdom, and it is only natural that the same thing should apply to physical things.
Danger gives a certain amount of zest to life, and even the so-called coward accepts thousands of adventures that are dangerous without realizing his own temerity. Walking along public highways and crossing city streets are dangers of the first magnitude in our own Country. We have made dangers of our own for human kind far beyond what nature had already provided. Mankind has continually struggled to combat wild beasts and to eliminate as far as possible poisonous insects and reptiles. In the early days certain small animals, insects and birds often threatened the destruction of crops which were necessary to feed the people. Danger is ever present in one form or another and if we live it is necessary that we continually fight for our own existence.
If we desire safety, we must fight for it, and we must fight even harder if we desire convenience, comfort and a reasonable amount of happiness. In spite of all the obstacles presented to us by life itself, however, the appreciation of things makes it possible for us to enjoy life to a large extent even if we are poor or in ill health.
The poor man may not have the same opportunities as the rich man to travel and to see many of the beauties of nature. The average man who is compelled to live in a poorly lighted, ill-ventilated, and not-too-clean habitation, usually regards himself as very unlucky, but it is usually true that he lives in a large city, the very wonders of which should provide a never ceasing source of interest and enjoyment. The massive quality and beauty of a great “skyscraper” is a wonderful thing in itself, which literally millions of individuals journey from far points to merely observe. The poor man has thousands of things of this nature at his very doorstep. It is useless to argue that the poor, especially if they be hungry or cold, are in no position to appreciate the wonderful things of life, for it is this very appreciation that gives them courage and strength to conquer the hunger and the cold and to overcome the obstacles to their personal well-being. It is the same thing as saying that the unfortunate man cannot use the only weapon that he has to help him to attain a better position in life.
A proper appreciation of the wonderful things that both nature and man have provided for the free use and enjoyment of all human beings is the one thing that is needed to make life seem worthwhile to a large number of people. It would prevent most of the suicides, and eliminate a large part of criminal activities.
The most important distinction is that we should appreciate those things that we possess or that we have the use of. Just as soon as we begin to appreciate only those things which are not our own, or which we do not have the privilege of using, we are embarked upon a permanent road of unhappiness. This does not mean that we should not strive to acquire worthwhile things that we may desire, but it certainly does mean that we should not remain unhappy and discontented during the period of striving. If a man is unable to secure a certain amount of enjoyment and happiness with what he already has, no matter how little, he is exceedingly unlikely to attain con tent or happiness by the acquisition of other things, no matter how large or valuable. Appreciation, therefore, of the things that we have or can use is the key note to happiness.
Appreciation of services covers much more than merely what is commonly included in that term. Services are usually thought of as pertaining to paid employees or to people who serve food or attend to our personal needs or desires. In its broader application it pertains to all of those individuals who furnish us instruction, amusement, or recreation, to public employees and to the vast army of individuals who render services gratuitously for reasons of love, friendship, sympathy, kindness, consideration or courtesy. Some of these services can be paid for with money, but most of them can only be repaid by like services to others when such opportunity presents itself.
The appreciation for these services does not need to be hypocritical or over-enthusiastic, but on the other hand it should not be casual or treated as of no consequence. A sincere and natural expression of thanks for services rendered is the most satisfactory appreciation that can be given to those who render services. Even if the service itself is of no value and may actually interfere with your enjoyment or comfort, it should be recognized and appreciated if the intent is sincere and honest.
Many parents have had the experience of having gifts made to them by their small children, such as a bunch of wilted dandelions as a bouquet for mother, or a ten cent pair of cuff links for father, and sometimes appreciation for such trifling gifts has been much larger than if those gifts had actually been valuable.
Even third or fourth rate members of the theatrical profession have at least some good points on their program and we could applaud the fairly good material, at least in a small measure. This applause might not enable them to hold down their jobs or keep the show going, but it would give them a certain amount of encouragement and help in their struggles.
We have given these two extremes as examples but it applies to all other relations of human beings and even animals. Appreciation of services performed is one of the first requisites of a real gentleman or gentlewoman.
Appreciation of love naturally includes affection, friendship, kindness and consideration. The man who loves his fellow men does not classify this love in the same category as the love for his wife, children, or other members of the family, but it is nevertheless one of the most profound and deep expressions of love that has been demonstrated to mankind.
It is not necessary that we have the same degree or the same type of love for humanity that we have for those who are closest and dearest to our hearts, but it is important that the love for those who are essential to our happiness should not interfere with our consideration and kindness to the rest of the world. Love is a beautiful and wonderful thing in itself, but the nearest approach to the love for the Divine Creator is the love that we bear His children, which includes all humankind.
Love is not purely a possession of humans, for many animals evidence this in such form as to almost make ourselves feel ashamed. When we consider the quality of the devotion of a dog to its master it often makes our own feelings seem entirely inadequate to the occasion.
Our appreciation therefore of the love that we are able to feel for others can only be surpassed by the appreciation of the love that others feel for us. A man or woman may feel that they love deeply, but they practically know that their love cannot equal that which their mother has for them, except in a perfectly mated union between a man and a woman, which by natural law takes precedence over other forms of love and is entirely separate and distinct from love of family, friends, and humanity.
Appreciation of love of Country and of God can be used to minimize the obstacles that often seem insurmountable between the love of Country and the love of God and humanity. Men were not made to fight each other but to help each other, but we must remember, as stated heretofore, that life is a continual battle and that the human race is slowly but steadily learning to cooperate rather than antagonize. We must not be too discouraged if final results along this line are not obtained in our own generation. We can merely look at the progress that has been made in the past and realize the eventual outcome.
We must appreciate the feeling of loyalty and patriotism held by citizens of all countries and endeavor to turn this along lines that will benefit not only their own country but all others as well. This has been done along medical and scientific lines for so long that it has been taken for granted. It only remains to develop the same procedure along economic lines as well as that of personal relations. If we truly love God we will be patient and forbearing and merely do all in our power to assist in bringing about pleasant and profitable relations between all the nations of the earth. The more we love our own Country and the more we love the Creator, the more we will assist in bringing about the desired result.
Appreciation of people is probably one of the hardest lessons that we have to learn. Even the worst individuals usually have some good qualities, and can in course of time acquire a still larger measure of them. We can all broadly recognize that different nations have certain qualities which are worth while emulating. We can also recognize some States and some communities have decidedly progressed along definite lines that are for the benefit of the physical, mental or spiritual welfare of their citizens.
The hardest lesson to accept is the fact that almost every individual citizen within our own communities should have a definite appreciation of his place in the scheme of life and of his efforts and accomplishments. Without employees no one could be an employer, and without servants no one could be a master. Each definite individual has his own place to fill, and our appreciation should take the form of seeing that each individual has the opportunity to progress according to his own native ability, his ambition, and his previous record.
Appreciation of life itself is all-important. It practically consists of an appreciation of the items which we have previously mentioned but is exemplified fully by the joy that comes from just being alive and able to partake of the sufferings as well as the joys and pleasures of existence, of being able to participate in activities that fail as well as those that succeed. In other words, to be a living and active part of the general scheme of life.
Appreciation of the Creator and of the magnitude and magnificence of His creations is entirely distinct from the love of God, itself. It has to do with a recognition of the supreme power, wisdom and accomplishment evident to our own senses. It is one of the first requisites to an appreciation of all of the other items that have been mentioned and without it mankind would be little more than a human clod upon the surface of the earth. It is the all-important evidence of mentality and physical attainment as well as that of a spiritual nature. Almost all human beings have this appreciation to a larger or smaller degree, but it should be used to guide their actions and to fortify their spirits for the battle of life, so that in very truth God will be on their side in the battle, and it will be His will that finally shall be accomplished.
H. B. MONJAR – November, 1935