I say, “to some degree” because my inherent shyness sometimes restrains me from following my mother’s “tell people” advice, particularly when it’s someone I don’t know well. Intrusion doesn’t come easily to me.
I’m bringing this up in relation to Winston Murray who was virtually here with us one day and gone the next. I had never met Winston, but I had admired him from a distance for usually being balanced in his presentations (a quality often missing in politicians) and for the strong serving of dignity he possessed. In particular, I noticed that he was the only politician here I heard speak passionately on the matter of the black/Indian ethnic divide in Guyana as being the most critical issue bedeviling us. In a time when most persons are discomfited by this topic, Winston Murray addressed it head-on (I particularly recall his launching into it on “Spotlight”) in a manner that showed both the acuity and the character of the man. I was struck by how fiercely and clearly he went at this issue when so many around him remained silent or looked uncomfortable. It was unusual.
I had seen him a few times in the Oasis Restaurant and wanted to tell him I admired his courage, but I didn’t know him, and I was reluctant. At the same time, the Zepherina point kept nagging at me. So, with that operating, the next time I saw Winston in Oasis, I left my coffee, walked over and introduced myself (with the usual Murray grace he smiled and said, “I know who you are”), shook his hand and said something to the effect that, “I heard you talk about the black/Indian divide in Guyana, and I just wanted to commend you for your vision and your courage. You’re the only politician I hear dealing with that.” He seemed somewhat taken aback – in retrospect, I may have worded it clumsily – but he didn’t launch into any polemic. He just calmly said, “Thank you very much, Dave.” and I went back to my coffee. Two weeks later, Winston became seriously ill.
Today, as I write this, he has left us, but today, as well, I have the comfort of knowing that what I wanted to say to Winston was said, and that my little bit of praise meant for him, he heard. Time and time again I have seen the value of that approach imbedded by my mother. I know for a fact that if I hadn’t pushed myself into that short encounter with Winston in Oasis, I would be kicking myself today for keeping my mouth shut.
It’s a lesson I learned long ago, and one I have often stressed to my children, and to people close to me – if you see something of value in a person, relay the praise. And, critically, don’t delay, do it today because the opportunity may not come again. If I had waited two weeks to speak to Winston, I would have been too late.
When somebody goes out of their way to help you or make something in your life work better, take the first opening to let them know you appreciate it.
In a time when many business places can make your blood boil, whenever you encounter courteous and efficient sales staff, let them know that you noticed.
When someone in public life you have never met, like a Winston Murray, does something commendable, find a way to commend him or her.
There are several sides to the practice, all of them worthy.
To begin with, in the case of someone you love, or a close friend, the assumption that “they know” can sometimes be wrong. Some years ago, I had become friendly with a very prominent person in this society – spent some time at his house; we emailed each other a lot; we were in constant touch. However, upon my casual reference one day to our friendship, his response was “I never knew you saw me a friend.” I was stunned. I learned from that encounter not to take things for granted; that one’s assumptions can be wrong.
You think you know what you are conveying, or what someone else is conveying to you. Often there are things at play – fears; insecurities; doubts; misunderstandings – about which we are totally ignorant. It is only through your willingness to be vulnerable that they are revealed and, hopefully, healed.
There is also the question of timing in that frequently you will find that your expression of praise, or closeness, comes at a low point in that person’s life; at at a time when they are most in need of a lift, there you are providing it. At a time when they may be questioning their commitment to some worthwhile but difficult course, you arrive bringing them the encouragement to persevere.
The other aspect to this is that the outreach redounds on you. The satisfaction you feel from seeing someone react to you, at the obvious balm from your praise, is a significant comfort. In addition, almost always, that expression of feeling, that arm around the shoulder, that pat on the back, will draw you closer to the person you reach out to. For the special friend you’re tied to the tie is made stronger; for persons you deal with in business, you have established a connection that endures.
In the overall, as well, the inclination to express appreciation or admiration to each other is something that Guyana could benefit from. We spend a lot of time griping about things going astray in this country, and there is much justification for that, but we are not spending enough time telling each other when positive feelings or responses come over us.
So the next time it occurs to you to say someone, “I love you”, or “I support you”, or “I admire you”, or “I appreciate you”, follow the impulse and say it. Don’t postpone. Among other things, you will put somebody on a higher cloud than nine, and you will not leave yourself in the position of saying, “I should have mentioned it when I had the chance.” Relay the praise today; if you wait for tomorrow, you may be too late.