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The Power of Appreciation

We should never underestimate the impact our gratitude can have on another person.

An Amish girl leaning against a tree, from the cover of Miriam's Quilt

Beckstrand is the author of Miriam’s Quilt, as well as the previous two books in the Forever After in Apple Lake series by Summerside Press, an imprint of Guideposts Books.

I have always regretted giving up on music lessons at the tender age of seven, and as a young mother, I determined that my children would learn to play the piano.

For one daughter, practicing was especially torturous. I cajoled, I bribed, I demanded, but nothing convinced her that practicing the piano was for her own good. On one particularly difficult day, while she pounded out her frustration in the key of C, I told her, “You’ll thank me one day.” With tears streaming down her face, she replied, “Mom, I promise I will never thank you for making me take piano.” And she never has.

But when she moved away from home, she sent me the letter that every mother dreams of. She thanked me, not for making her play the piano, but for doing her laundry over the years and cooking thousands of dinners and teaching her how to clean a toilet. She wanted me to know that all that hard work and sacrifice had not gone unnoticed. When she had to do all that stuff on her own, she appreciated how much I had done for her.

Nothing gives me more satisfaction than fixing a good meal for my starving teenage boys or staying up late into the night to help my son figure out a complex Calculus problem. But often I wonder: Do my children know who does the laundry, or do they think we have a magic clothes hamper? Does my son appreciate that his mother, who hasn’t taken a Calculus class in 30 years, is still willing to help him figure out complex equations?

We often barrel our way through life with blinders on, never stopping to notice what others do for us and failing to recognize our blessings. We are commanded to thank God in all things, but we often forget.

In Miriam’s Quilt, Miriam has spent most of her life taking her blessings for granted. She sees God’s goodness as a natural consequence of her own “righteousness.” When her family begins to fall apart, she learns to recognize God’s love in the midst of her trials.

Miriam is deeply grateful for the friendship Seth offers her. She spends hours crafting a special quilt to express how thankful she is. She makes the other quilt for her boyfriend, Ephraim, who only recognizes it for its monetary value. His reaction makes her feel small and unappreciated. Seth, on the other hand, cherishes the gift, worries that she sacrificed too much time on it, and expresses his gratitude from the depths of his soul. Miriam never regrets making it for him. Guess which boy Miriam chooses in the end.

We should never underestimate the power of a thankful heart and the impact our gratitude can have on another person. Our appreciation need not come with a quilt or an elaborate party or a plate of cookies. A short, heartfelt thank-you doesn’t cost anything, takes little effort and can mean the world to someone.

A sweet elderly lady was particularly touched by a song my son performed in church. She told him, “Thank you for your song. You used to be quite rambunctious, but you’ve turned out very well.” He’ll remember that forever.

We all liked being appreciated. It’s nice to hear my children’s gratitude now and then. Working together late one night, I helped my son solve a particularly tricky math problem. He closed the book with a satisfying thud and said, “Mom, you’re a genius.” He gets extra dessert for the rest of his life.

But my daughter still hasn’t thanked me for those piano lessons.

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