Positive Polarity or the magic of the Appreciation Jars.

In today’s post, I want to share with you a very special otheresteem-building moment. Our extended family is like so many others: there is much love, and our share of conflict, difficulties and even the self-appointed annual Grinch! So Christmas dinner has not always turned out to be as peaceful as I would like it to be.

On Christmas Eve this year, we got together with family for our traditional holiday dinner. Every year we take the time, my husband, our children and I, to share what we appreciate in each other and what we are thankful for.  It takes place as we all weave a pine wreath and share our wishes for the world.  It has become a special, together time to look forward to.  This year, we wanted a simpler way to get close and honest with eachother that could include our extended family and not feel like an imposition on them.

That’s when I remembered what Mark Hundley had shared in that story about giving creatively : the Appreciation Jar!  I excitedly prepared everything we needed. There was one small jar for each of us and the kids decorated the tops with each person’s name and cut out little strips of colored paper for us to use.  When we were all together and had finished a gift exchange game we do, I asked each family member to pick a jar from the basket at the center of the table and make sure it was not the one with their name on it.  Each person then wrote on as many strips of paper as they wanted, things they LIKED about the person whose jar they held.  Laughingly and rather nervously the writing began.  We had said at least 10-15 strips and the jokes were about whether they would find that many things, but once you got started, it became easier and easier.

You could feel the energy in the room shift, deepen, lift! Thinking about ONLY positive things that you like about someone (even if there are a lot of things you do not like) builds your otheresteem for them and helps you realize they are not necessarily that terrible role the family has cast them in.  There is so much more to them.  Laughs, giggles, jokes, and then…slowly but surely, peace, appreciation, love came over us.  By the time we felt ready to return the jars to their owners, we were on a roll.  Each person could say whatever they wanted to give the jar, whatever they felt the need to express.  The giving of the jars was touching and full of enjoyment.  Then, we set the jars out in front of each owner and you could continue to write slips to put in any of the jars you wanted.  We were now eager to do it, and it went on and on.  It felt great to see people dropping new slips into your jar and it really created an environment of otheresteem.  We had given eachother a gift that is priceless: the chance to dine together in love and harmony,  with great otheresteem for eachother if only for that night.  We came away with those jars full of appreciation, to go back to on a rainy day or savor for times to come.

And our holiday get-together? It was polarized to the positive as never before.  Who would have known that the simple act of thinking what you like about each other person at the table would set the stage for a peaceful, wonderful, dinner?  I was not sure what to expect, but the magic of the Appreciation Jars is powerful stuff!  I said it before, and I will say it again: it is power-packed otheresteem at its best!

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‘Tis the Season

December brings up so many things for all of us. Regardless of you beliefs, religious background or traditions, you can feel the year coming to an end and new beginnings in the making. Many people find a time to review what the year has meant to them, to figure out where they want to go, to express gratitude towards those who made their path easier. You might also find that forgiveness-that uglier cousin to gratitude-will help you in turning a new page, leaving 2009 in the past.

You may be finding it easier, or more difficult to practice otheresteem during the holidays. So much is stirred up, so many energies collide, and to-do lists grow longer than ever. Consider this: you can take otheresteem to the next step and really make a difference. You can build on what you have learned about yourself and connect the dots.  It can start small or with a huge vision, but it will change you and the way you contribute to the world. You may recall we explored the issue here in the November post IT’S ABOUT US ALL. Expansive otheresteem feels like, well, nothing else!

What I want to stress here is that you seize the opportunity NOW, whatever your case may be for this season, to explore how you have built or not built otheresteem this year and how you want to move forward with that.  Make your own list of who you want to value more, how you might go about it and what practices you want to embrace from now to years’ end.  Change your view of the people that have been in your way in 2009.  Open up the possibility for them to fit into a new category in 2010: people you learned from.  I hope that earlier posts in this blog can inspire you as well as the practices I have included in the book.  But if you would like to explore the issue further, leave your comments here and I will be more than happy to continue the conversation.  Or follow me on Twitter (@monedays) and we can engage from there!

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