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A Pat on the Back
Photo: Alexey Fursov
My husband had just lifted our new friend’s wheelchair from the trunk of our car and brought it around to the passenger side. Our guest, suffering from painful spinal problems, pulled himself to standing position to accomplish the transfer from car to chair.

Before he sat down, however, he looked at my husband and said, “I am going to give you what every good man deserves but what he seldom gets.” With that, he reached out to pat my husband on the shoulder.

“Every man,” he explained later, “wants recognition of his hard work, his love, his sacrifices for his loved ones. More than a new car or a fancy house is this desire to be recognized and appreciated for who he is and what he does. What he really wants is a pat on the back.”

It set me to thinking about how often I take my husband’s work for granted. The paychecks that put food on the table, services the cars, and pays our grandchild’s tuition just become a part of everyday life. I sometimes forget that those checks are there because he’s helping a dyslexic student learn math or he’s listening to someone who doesn’t know how to stop talking while he’s trying to do his job.


I thought about the husbands in our church, our neighborhood, and our community: most of them hard-working, dedicated spouses, fathers, and grandfathers. They’re the ones who take on the dangerous jobs, the too-heavy jobs, the mind-boggling, gagging, or nasty jobs. They feel the brunt of the responsibility for the care and safety of their family. They wear the cloak of leadership even when it becomes heavy or controversial. A little acknowledgement from the ones they love goes a long way in lightening their load.

I’m not sure my husband appreciated the pat on the back from someone he barely knew, but our friend’s wise words were not lost on me. I recognized my own need to listen more actively, respond more positively, and to show appreciation in a way that gives an emotional “pat on the back.”

Each of us needs that sense of satisfaction that we are doing “a job well done.” We don’t need plaques or awards. Forget the speeches and applause. These are not things that feed the heart and soul of a person. (They might feed ego, but ego is a ravenous thing which ought not to be fed.)

Every man, woman, and child benefits from simple recognition of their effort and affirmation of their human worth. A pat on the back, a quick hug, a smile and a word that says “I appreciate you” is worth more than any material object or tangible reward.

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By Lois Pecce. Copyright © 2012 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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