It seems these days that in school there are awards for everything. Although those awards do wonders for the recipients, what they also do is remind others that they aren’t good enough. In our lives we are judged by how many social media friends we have, how many “likes” we get, how many “views” our videos get, etc. There is constant judgement to live up to.
I remember when my daughter was in middle school and they gave out awards for community service. I was sitting in the audience and watching all the names called and the children walking up on stage to receive their awards. My daughter’s name wasn’t called. After the assembly she asked me why. She had spent the year visiting a small assisted living home in our area. She brought gifts to the residents, spent time talking to them, and most of all, she spent time listening to them as they shared with her the stories of their lives. She made them feel like they still mattered to someone. So she thought that doing so should have earned her an award. That’s when I told her that the school didn’t know that she had done that. We never told them. The real award for what she had done was not a piece of paper or the recognition by the school and her classmates, the real award was the smile on the faces of the residents when she walked into the room. The real award was how she felt about spending time with them. When such things are quantified by a panel of judges, it changes the focus of the service from those you are doing a service for, to yourself. It negates the work you have done when you are not doing it for the sake of those you are helping.
In high school, when it came time for the Breakfast of Champions, my children were never recognized for their character by the teachers or administrators of the school. But a woman who worked in the main office was impressed with my daughter and her friend when the girls reported that the candy/snack machine was giving them their candy and also giving them their money back. The woman in the office was so impressed with their honesty, that she put their names in for recognition. My daughter was recognized at The Breakfast of Champions that year and I was proud to see her receive that honor. But I wish that one of her teachers, who must have known her so much better, had recognized her value and how much she deserved to be honored without having to be told.
It is the little things we do in life that matter. It is the selfless things we do that matter most.