On appreciation and the importance of showing it

I believe that we underestimate the positive affect our kindness and appreciation has on people. We believe it won’t make a difference, that the effort to do so will be unappreciated, or that it doesn’t matter.

Last week I used the City of Toronto’s web site to enroll my children on some skiing and swimming programs that the City provides. What I used to have to do — really — was get up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. and walk over to the community center and line up until 7 a.m. with many other people. I had to do this twice a year: September and January. Standing outside in Toronto in January at 5:30 or 6 in the morning to try and get your daughter in karate is the definition of ‘no fun’. However, the people from the city who ran it were very good, getting there at 6, giving out placeholder numbers to people, and letting them in before 7 just so people could stay warm. At 7, people would take turns working with staff to use the IT system the city has for registering. For high demand choices, you had to get to the system by 7:20, because they filled up immediately (once I tried to register my daughter in karate this way: it was filled by 7:10).

There were two other choices: a phone system (overloaded and not easy for me to use I found) and a web based system. The web based system was HAMMERED at 7 a.m. The first time I tried it a few years ago, it took me over an hour to get in. Needless to say, I went back to the 5 a.m. line up.

However, over the years of trying it, I have seen the web based system improve greatly, and I got in quickly this year (7:05), even though I am sure it still gets massive amount of load at exactly 7 a.m.

I was so impressed, I sent an email to the Mayor’s office (the office of the Mayor of Toronto is fantastic with answering email, usually answering within the hour and with specific responses to my email). I told them how impressed I was with the improvements they have made over time. (And after having stood in the freezing cold at 5 a.m., you appreciate it!). Not only were they appreciative, but they forwarded the email to others within the city, and they were all very appreciative as well. In fact, I was surprised how appreciative they were in the emails they sent back to me.

And so I thought I would write this, partially as a reminder to myself to be more appreciative (it’s a never ending journey and I am sure I have along way to go still). Partially to remind others. And partially to tell people — particularly the IT people I work with — that people do appreciate the work you do to make things better, even if they don’t always say so.

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