A Weekly Column
A LITTLE SHOT OF APPRECIATION
On the surface, it appeared that Nicole had everything in the world going for her.
By any standard of measurement, she was a beautiful young woman. She had a bright, buoyant, bubbly personality that endeared her to teenagers and adults alike. She had lots of friends, and they were active in lots of different things. And she was deeply devoted to her faith.
When you saw Nicole you smiled, mostly because she was almost always smiling her happy, infectious smile. That's just the way she was, and that’s how she made others feel: happy.
At least, that's how it appeared.
But deep inside, she was crying.
Nicole has Attention Deficit Disorder, (ADD), a neurological problem that is a learning disability. No matter how hard she tried to keep up in her classes, her mind just wouldn’t make many of the conceptual connections that other students made without even trying. She could understand what was being taught at any particular moment in time; she just couldn’t put it together with other concepts to form a logical sequence of thoughts or events.
And that made school pretty traumatic for her, and incredibly frustrating. She tried hard to keep up – or to at least cover her lack of understanding – but that just made her anxious, stressed and, often, depressed. Self-esteem is usually the first victim in a battle with ADD. Of course, only her family saw this side of her. She managed to keep up a happy, cheerful front among her friends at school, but her family saw the toll it was taking on her soul.
Her junior year of high school was especially challenging, and the whole family was suffering. They tried family counseling, and it helped a little. But as the start of Nicole's senior year approached, the now-familiar feeling of pressure and dread began building, and the family geared up for one more year.
One night while Nicole was out with friends, Hannah, her then-16-yea-old sister, felt an overwhelming desire to communicate her feelings to Nicole. She took a notebook and sat on the front porch and began writing all the things she admired about her big sister, and expressed her appreciation for the important role she had played in her life. Love and heartfelt gratitude flowed onto the paper, and then Hannah stuffed it into an envelope and placed it on Nicole's pillow.
When Nicole came home, she had an attitude (parents of teenagers know exactly what I'm talking about). The night had not been particularly pleasant, and she just wanted to retreat to her room. She closed the door firmly behind her. Within moments her door burst open and she rushed to Hannah's room, tears streaming down her face and Hannah's letter clutched in her hand.
"You saw the prayer I wrote, didn't you?" Nicole said tearfully as she embraced her sister.
"No," Hannah replied through her own tears. "I didn't know you wrote a prayer."
Nicole showed her sister what she had written in her journal earlier that day: "Dear God, all I want is for somebody to appreciate me for who and what I am. That's all I want."
It's amazing what a little shot of sincere appreciation can do for someone lacking in the self-esteem department. Within a few weeks Nicole was standing in front of 600 peers at a youth retreat, publicly acknowledging her struggle with ADD and expressing appreciation to Hannah – and to God. And while I won't say that her senior year was easy, she made it. Today she is a beautiful young mother, with a great family and some excellent possibilities ahead of her. It is looking once again like she has everything in the world going for her.
Whether or not she actually does.
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