A Universal Gift

November/December, 2020


. . . And It's Not Expensive!


This month’s blog starts out at the Post Office on Cambridge Avenue here in Palo Alto, CA. Three highly competent elves are on their feet behind the counter, serving the steady stream of masked folks eager to send holiday envelopes and packages to their loved ones.


I’ve given each elf a nickname. First, there’s Ella. She’s a bit high-strung and oozes no-nonsense efficiency. My heartbeat quickens when Ella waits on me. Mr. Bear moves at a slower pace and could not be more thorough. His warmth always soothes me, even if I wish he’d take care of the transaction quicker. Finally, there’s Phoebe. She’s clearly the leader of this trio of elves. She works fast and seems to know everything.


Most days, Phoebe is a bit intimidating. Phoebe hasn’t much patience and doesn’t hesitate to tell you how you’ve messed up with packaging. Sometimes Mr. Bear gives me an empathetic look. Ella doesn’t care; she’s way too focused on the customer she’s helping.


All three elves were there the morning I arrived with seven packages to send. I hoped for anyone but Phoebe to wait on me. My hopes did not come true. I gulped down some dread and stepped up to her station.


Sure enough, she pointed out something I did wrong (the return address label wasn’t far enough up in the upper left corner), but added for all to hear, “that’s okay. Just next time . . .” That brought my embarrassment down a few notches.


Phoebe processed all seven packages quite rapidly. She didn’t roll her eyes, as Ella has done previously, when I indicated I wanted to confirm each address in her Post Office-generated label. Paying for my postage costs, a rush of appreciation surfaced for Phoebe. I may not always like her bossy self but in that moment, I saw how swiftly she got me in and out of the Post Office.


“Wait, I have something for you,” I told Phoebe. She looked puzzled.


I reached in my wallet where I was carrying a card that says “YOU MATTER.” I handed it to her, adding an emphatic "I appreciate you." (For more on the You Matter Movement, check out this website.) I could only see Phoebe's eyes but it was clear she was deeply moved by my message for her. I couldn’t fully understand what she said behind her N95 mask but it had something to do with wanting to show the card to her 26-year old daughter. I’m guessing Phoebe didn’t feel too appreciated by her.


Phoebe thanked me as I left her counter. Heading toward my car, I noticed how buoyant I felt. It didn’t cost me a thing to show my appreciation to a dedicated postal worker who shows up every day to serve us despite possible risks of exposure during this pandemic.


By giving joy to Phoebe, I got a bundle of joy. Why is it so hard for human beings to share and show their appreciation? I really don’t get it BUT . . . I’m on a quiet campaign to reverse this tendency. I propose the following:


1) Get yourself a simple lined notepad or journal book. If you need to label it, call it “Appreciations,” or some such.

2) As often as every day, write down one person (you don’t even need to know their real name) you appreciate.

3) Write down what you appreciate about that person.

4) Extra credit: find an opportunity to tell that person what you appreciate about them.

5) For couples or parents n’ kids, you could trade one notepad back and forth. One day, appreciation partner #1 writes an appreciation of partner #2 (or #3 or #4) and passes the notepad to their partner. The next day, partner #2 writes an appreciation of partner #1, and so on. This variation makes the sharing of the appreciation pretty danged easy.


How is appreciation different from gratitude? If you have a gratitude journal, you may be noting your thanks for people but you could also be grateful for tangible or intangible things, developments, the weather, etc. Appreciation is more person-centered. The world seems to need a big dose of this right now. And if the byproduct of expressing appreciation is joy, what’s not to like about it?


Oh, and FYI, I appreciate every single reader of this blog. Some of you have been “with” me since the very first one was sent out in 2007. I appreciate your interest, feedback, and enthusiasm for what I have to offer!


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Prompts For Joy


Click here to find out more about Betty’s malfunctioning bra.

(Loads of appreciation to Sue Murray who shares things that’ll make me laugh right out loud.)


Click here for an upside of smaller gatherings for the holidays!

(Claudette Bergman, much appreciation for the laughs you send my way, too.)


Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.


Pictured Above


Top: "Give Every Thank You." Collage by Martha Clark Scala


Below: A sample page from Chapter 19 in my memoir, Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself).


Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself) by Martha Clark Scala





"A remarkable book that honors the author’s father the way only a loving daughter could, shows the methods she used to research his enigmatic history, and beautifully displays photos of their art. "

~ Robert Davis, Author of The Ticker,

Will to Kill and more.


Sample page from Chapter 19. This memoir is loaded with color photos (and some black and white) on just about every page. A visual feast.


To purchase the premium softcover or e-book versions of Assembling a Life, click here.




Why Assemble a Life? An Interview with Author and Artist, Martha Clark Scala


What motivated me to write Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself)? Check out this video to find out. Comments and feedback welcome!


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