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Life as Performance Art

I commend publisher Mike Wilcox for keeping Michigan Newspaper Association plaques and awards gathered under past publishers Cheryl and Walt Kaechele in Allegan County News offices. It is good to appreciate others’ work.
If you read articles, unless strictly business or political, in his papers it’s clear volunteer battalions make small towns tick. These people give deeply because they believe in causes that boost their communities.
“An ounce of taffy,” was one of my father’s pet sayings, “is worth a ton of epitaph-y,” i.e. thank givers while they’re living. You can show gratitude creatively — send produce or a flower from your garden, something to eat, a card … Your acknowledgement will mean something.
Al Capone’s Chicago Outfit bumped off northside gang rival Dion O’Banion behind the counter of his flower shop, then sent a large floral tribute “to my good friend” at his funeral. Not the most sincere thanks.
It got worse. O’Banion’s boys ordered floral arrangements for dead rivals larger than Capone’s. Gotta love competition.
We can do better, be sincere and encourage the festivals, charity fundraisers, community activities and open-invitation events put on largely by local volunteers.
Frank Capra, asked by the War Department in 1940 to make a film explaining the difference between the U.S. and Axis countres, noted “We are a nation of joiners … We join churches because we choose to do so. We join others to help out in the community. We join fraternal and social groups that benefit other people.  
“We do it because we choose to do it, not because we are ordered to do so.” The narrator then compared that compulsory service of the Nazis.
We will continue to volunteer if we believe we get something out of it. It need not be tangible. Maybe it is the fun of being with other people, knowing what we do matters.
So does the “taffy” of appreciation. Otherwise we might feel we are being taken for granted, used, conscripted to give free labor. This applies to paid workers too.
A now semi-retired ex- employee suddenly gave his boss two weeks notice to take another job. Asked why he was leaving, he said that he had been working at the company more than 20 years, “And not once, not one single time, did you ever say ‘thank you.’” The employer was cluelessly stunned. “Yeah, but you always got your paycheck on time,” he said.
Feeling that way, we may “quiet quit” and/or snarl to the boss, “Take this job and shove it.” Replacing volunteers, or even employees, is never easy.
Respect and appreciation for the work we are doing can alleviate that resentment.
Being ignored or unseen hurts. Let people know that their service matters and wonderful things can happen.
Ike Hoover, chief White House butler during Theodore Roosevelt’s and William Howard Taft’s terms, said when the Roosevelts lived there, they constantly said hello, the children addressed him as “Mr. Hoover” and everyone expressed their gratitude. The result was his staff went out of their way to do a bit more knowing it would be noticed and appreciated.
A few years later when Taft moved in, the climate changed. That First Family couldn’t bother to speak, Hoover said.
A few seconds of kindness and acknowledgement is all it takes to put a tickle in someone’s heart. Go forth and dole out taffy.

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