Connecting local responses around the world
I am in Prague waiting my connection flight to Barcelona and I wanted to share with you the feeling of excitement that still bathes me. It still persists a sense of joy and contentment that usually starts with the openness that propitiates dialogue, and a stimulating sensation that starts when I prepare for listening and persists in time every time I review what actually happens there.
I know about the power of appreciation through my own experience. I have learnt much about my own strengths and myself thanks to my appreciative friends. And I also know other people’s stories about the impact and appreciative attitude had in their lives, especially in challenging times. This week I also learnt how much joy and contentment it brings to my life the practice of appreciation towards others.
Last week, we went to a Protestant Church in Yekaterinburg and it was an extraordinary experience. It was an awkward visit in many senses. The number of visitors was clearly disparate with that of the hosts (10 of us and only two of them), the expectations were varied, we did not know the community… But it allowed me to understand the importance of appreciation towards others in one’s own wellbeing. Appreciation is key not only for the people who receive it but also for those who practice it.
Since the very moment we arrived, the whole situation seemed to be contrary to what we expected: we expected to find a group of people, only one woman was there welcoming us (joined by another one after we arrived). We expected to have a dialogue but it was more of a monologue. We expected a conversation to exchange stories and we found what looked like a wish to ‘convert’ us. The first impression was a challenging one. And still, below this, or behind, or within, all this we could discover two human beings who had responded to a painful personal situation and put themselves in action to solve the problem.
Anna and Alexandra opened up their hearts and told us about the despair they felt in front of a critical family situation. They decided to act, join together and with their community and fight in the best way they could. They decided not to wait helpless so they mobilized all the resources they could found, both their personal resources and those of the community they belonged to.
Once I could get through the initial situation of disconcert I could start really listening to the story these women were telling us and I was able to appreciate all the strengths that they set in action and how that was still motivating them to keep doing the same for other people. The courage needed to tell us, foreigners, a story that they considered at times with a sense of guilt (‘I came to hate my own son for what he was doing to himself and to me’, said Anna) is amazing.
And it is only through appreciation that is possible to cross the barriers of ideas, ideologies or whatever possible differences, that we can get into people’s hearts, into their human nature, and that offers us a wide space for communication and understanding. It is in that space where we can meet each other as human beings.
We did not have much time so I could not to give them feedback and explicitly share with them my appreciation (maybe they did not need it from me right there as they probably get it somewhere else) but it was for me an experience that stimulates me to continue practicing SALT and receiving the gift of appreciation, both when I receive it from others and when I practice it in my relation to others.
I think that appreciation is like a key long time lost and forgotten. But when we find it we discover that it is the key that opens our hearts; it needs some polishing but it is the Key.