I opened a package from my parents the other day to find a baggie full of Holland America chocolates and a note in my Mom's handwriting, "Put one on your pillow each night!" My family has been on a few cruises and always enjoyed coming back to our cabins after dinner to find a perfect little chocolate on our pillows. What's better than finding someone left you chocolate? I'd always eat mine within about 30 seconds of entering my cabin. My mom, on the other hand, is a master of self-control and would often save her nightly treat. She'd hide them away and once we were back at home I'd come into my bedroom and surprise! Find a chocolate on my pillow.
I had to fight back tears as I saw the chocolates she and my dad and grandparents collected for me on their Christmas cruise. Getting emotional over chocolates? What's up, Em? But it's not about the chocolate. It's the thought. Putting a chocolate on my pillow is just one of the millions of ways that my parents show me they care. It's a reminder to be myself and an affirmation that they know I'm working my hardest and giving my all.
I've also taken to rewarding myself after school with a sticker. If my after school cleaners get so excited about stickers, shouldn't they make me happy, too? You're Awesome! Excellent. Well done. Superstar! I stick one on my hand and take a deep breathe. You did good today, Em. Teaching is challenging, balancing my time between my classroom responsibilities and helping the school with other projects is challenging. But hey, life is challenging for everyone, no matter the job. So I slap on that sticker and press on.
You know something that happens when I stop to give myself a sticker? I more easily see the good in others. By being my own biggest cheerleader instead of my own biggest critic, it's easier to be a cheerleader for others. By finding the good in myself, I open up my eyes to the good in others or the good still present in hard situations.
Sometimes, you'll have people in your life putting chocolates on your pillows and stickers on your hands. They'll tell you how valuable your work is and how much you mean to them. Those people are the gems of life. There are other seasons where you might be the one handing out stickers and chocolates. The people in your life might need you to be a gem for them. Or maybe it's a bit of both, you give some stickers and chocolate and get some in return. Other times, though, you have to be your own biggest cheerleader. You have to put stickers on your own hand and chocolates on your own pillow. When things get hard are you going to be your own biggest cheerleader or let yourself be defeated?
I hope you have the eyes to see the good in others and sprinkle around some (real or metaphoric) pieces of chocolate. I hope you have the eyes to see the gems in your life and thank them for all they do. Most of all, I hope that you have the strength and love to be your own biggest cheerleader.