Letting others know you appreciate and value them is one of the greatest gifts you can give. In today’s episode, I recount personal stories of appreciation and the bonuses I experienced as a result.
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Welcome to Food for Thought Podcast, THE place to explore, celebrate, and manifest a life motivated and defined by unconditional compassion and optimal wellness. Today’s episode is The Gift of Appreciation
Before we begin, my name is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. You can find me at joyfulvegan.com and on social media, and you can find my books wherever books are sold, and you can join me in my online cooking classes. This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you, and you can join other supporters by going to patreon.com/colleenpatrickgoudreau to become a supporter today at your chosen level. Thank you so much in advance for supporting, for subscribing, and for listening.
For those of you who listened to my podcast on ex-vegans, I shared my personal story about how I wrote to Lee Majors — the Six Million Dollar Man — and Bill Bixby — the Incredible Hulk — for many years when I was young. I also wrote to Henry Thomas, the little boy who played Elliot in the movie E.T. If you’d like to know the rest of the story, go check out that podcast episode, but the reason I bring that up in this episode is because from a young age, I have always been inclined to reach out to people I admire to tell them that I appreciate them and that they’ve touched my life.
When I grew up, I was clearly not disillusioned by how my childhood fan-letter-writing turned out (again, listen to the Ex-Vegans episode to find out), because I also wrote letters to others I admired — and I’m talking in this case about celebrities — like musicians I loved or actors or directors. It’s not that I’m star-struck. I’ve never been star-struck. It’s that the arts — film, theatre, literature, music — have always been a huge passion and inspiration for me and having been so moved by the creators of such works of art…having been soooo grateful to them for generously sharing themselves and their talent with the world…my instinct was always to let them know that someone was paying attention. I remember in my late teens, I had written to Cary Elwes (who starred in Lady Jane, which I was OBSESSED WITH) and Princess Bride and Rob Reiner (director of The Princess Bride and of course one of the stars of All in the Family, which remains to this day one of my favorite — and I think most brilliant — television series of all time. It was an absolute thrill to run into Rob Reiner and Mandy Patinkin (who I also adored) one day in NYC and just told them how much I appreciated their work and told them why. I even wrote to Ian McClellan when I was much older — um like 17 years ago — and sent him my cooking DVD because I had heard he was vegetarian. (And he wrote back a truly lovely letter; and I’m certain it was him.) 🙂 Several years after that…probably 7 years ago now?…he was in a play in a local theatre; of course we went, and I was able to talk to him, thank him for his letter, and thank him for his work (and for a beautiful statement he had made about animals and why he became vegetarian). He was so gracious and grateful, and it was just lovely.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I share my appreciation only with celebrities. I just find it adorable that my young self didn’t see a difference between writing to a family member and writing to an actor. I really didn’t. But, that stemmed from the fact that I was an emotional and sensitive child and always felt (for better or for worse) that if you feel something for someone, you tell them. Like, I was the kid who couldn’t go to sleep without telling my parents I loved them; I hid notes to my mother that she would later find, telling her I loved her or thanking her for being the best mom; and I just liberally expressed my gratitude to the people I loved. I still do.
So, here’s what a ridiculous geek I am. I haven’t thought about these stories for YEARS! It was only when I started drafting this episode that I was reminded of some of my own personal examples of sharing appreciation. When we first moved from NJ to California in 1998, we found out very quickly that while CA didn’t have annual car inspections like NJ did, it did require you to get a smog check when you were registering a car for the first time in CA (and some old cars still have to get smog checks every couple years). So, we took our Mazda 626 — the car we drove across the country in — to a 76 gas and car service station in Oakland — I still remember it was called Claremont 76 — recently demolished when a new Safeway grocery store was built on the site. Anyway, we randomly took the car there to get it inspected, and I was so impressed with the customer service. Like… I don’t know now if it was exceptional or if it was just a very different experience than anything I had had in NJ or if it was just that I looked at California with rose-colored glasses because we had just driven 3,000 miles to make this our home, and many things validated that move from the moment we made the decision to … well … to today.
But whatever it was, I was just so impressed with the customer service that after it was all said and done, I mailed them a thank you letter telling them how much I appreciated how well they took care of us. And I did the same thing when we went to our first Safeway and our first CVS pharmacy here — wrote a letter to the manager of each of the stores to thank them and to let them know about how their staff treated us. Seriously…everytime I went somewhere for the first time, I was just amazed at how stellar the customer service was, so I always wrote.
Now, mind you, this is all before Yelp and Google reviews and before social media (yes, there was a time before social media), etc. While email was around, it was still pretty new, so I just wrote good old-fashioned letters, put them in an envelope, and sent them on their way. I still do that. I recently sent a thank you card to The Food Mill, our local bulk grocery store, thanking them for staying open during Covid, for keeping customers safe, and for keeping their bulk bins open. Other than limiting the number of customers allowed in the store, and requiring plastic gloves and a mask, they kept their bulk bins open throughout all of this, for which I am very grateful. Single-use plastic consumption and waste have risen to astronomical numbers during the pandemic, and I’m grateful I can do my tiny little part avoiding unnecessary waste. So, anyway…I sent them a card and told them how much I appreciated them.
And of course with all of these letters, I don’t expect a response. Even when I send email appreciation letters. My intention is to just let that person know that they are appreciated. If I get a response, it’s a huge bonus. I think there was a time when I didn’t expect email to even get into the inbox of the person I was writing to, but now, I think we can all be fairly confident that they receive it. But…still…it’s always a huge surprise to me when I get a response. And for some of the people I’ve reached out to, we’ve even wound up developing a friendly rapport over the years, including with one of my favorite NYTimes opinion writers. So, again…bonus.
Recently, I wrote to one of the spin instructors at the studio in San Diego I take virtual spin classes with every day. She’s just such a delight, she makes me smile even while I’m dripping with sweat, and she just needed to know that she brightens my day. So I sent her an email to tell her so, and she wrote back (bonus!) to tell me that I made her day. So…even though it just feels good writing to someone to show them support or appreciation, you just get a warm squishy feeling inside knowing it makes them happy.
Now, many, many of you listening already know what I’m talking about, because I — personally — have received thousands of letters from you over the years telling me you appreciate me and my work, and I cannot overstate how much that means to me. How a simple email of appreciation from a stranger can make my day or turn it all around. To know that someone values the work you put out there, to know that someone thinks about you with affection and appreciation, to know that someone takes time out of their busy schedule to sit down and write a note, to know that someone taps into their own vulnerability to share a part of themselves with you — it’s just incredibly generous. It’s truly a gift. And I thank you.
Perhaps this doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore, because so many people are connected on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, and you can send someone a comment through any of those platforms, but I dunno…of course I’m immensely grateful when I see your positive comments…don’t get me wrong…but there’s just something more personal about getting a card or a letter or an email. At least, I’ll speak for myself.
It’s funny, because as much as I take customer service very seriously and clearly tell companies and people how much I appreciate them, I don’t tend to do this on public forums. I’m terrible at leaving Yelp reviews, and I rarely comment on people’s social media accounts. It’s just a personal thing; I greatly value and regularly look at reviews — on Yelp or Google or Amazon — but I just don’t tend to leave public reviews. I mean I do when I know it’s going to help the person or business I care about, but all I’m saying is I tend to be inclined to send personal letters of appreciation. And I would never leave a scathingly negative review or insulting comment or attack on anyone on social media — whether it be Yelp or social media platform, or what have you. Call me old-fashioned, but I just think it says more about the person assassinating someone’s character personally than it does about the person you’re assailing, but maybe that’s just because I know how terrible it feels to see your own name slandered and besmirched — especially when it’s unwarranted. So, if I have a complaint with a company or a person, I’ll go right to the source. But public criticisms, complaints, condemnations — all a different story.
Today, I wanted to just emphasize what a beautiful and simple thing it is to tell someone you appreciate them. A friend, a coworker, a family member, a stranger, a store clerk, a garbage collector, a journalist, an elected official, an activist, whomever and however often you’re moved. And do it again and again and again. I always say that I don’t believe most people wake up in the morning thinking about how much misery or cruelty they can contribute to the world that day; but I also believe that most people don’t wake up in the morning thinking about how much kindness and compassion we can contribute to the world that day.
Imagine if that were on our to-do list every day. No, really. Imagine it. Imagine what the world would look like, what your world would look like, if we shared notes and words of appreciation to people every single day. That’s a pretty nice picture, isn’t it? Now, go make it a reality.
And by the way, I appreciate you so very much.
Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.
For the animals, both human and non-human, this is CPG. Thanks for listening.