Random Acts of Kindness: Recognition Style


A few months ago, I was flying home from a speaking engagement on this tiny, very noisy airplane. Right in front of me was this poor mother with an energetic two-year-old and a fussy baby. 

Oh, man, did I feel for her. If you’ve ever had kids or watched your nieces or nephews in public or taken your grandkids out when they weren’t feeling well, you know what I mean.

I could see a few people looking around and you could almost see their thought bubbles, “oh great!”

My seatmate, a lovely health and safety specialist, Scott, and I, were the ones placed behind her so we decided to make it our mission to reassure her with our smiles that it was no problem and we understood. 

In fact, as the plane started to descend, Scott and I got to talking about this mom’s greatness. How patient she was. How kind she was. How loving she was. She couldn’t hear us (we were resource gossiping about her), as she was so busy dealing with her kids and she probably forgot we were even back there! 

Suddenly the plane hit some turbulence and the baby started screaming. No, wailing might be a better descriptor. I could tell she was running out of energy – physically and emotionally – so by the time the plane landed, she let out a huge sigh of relief.

I pulled out a FROG kudos card and began writing; “You are such a patient mom, I just want to make sure that you know that people are watching and they are in awe of your greatness.”

Up pops her spunky toddler, finally freed from her repressive seatbelt, and popped her head over the seat. The little girl asked, “Hey, what are you writing lady?” 

I said, “I was just writing a note for your mommy. Would you like to give it to her?

With a big chubby-cheeked smile she took it and handed it over. “Mommy, mommy, this is for you.” 

She’d almost grabbed it with a furrowed brow. I am not sure if she was ready for criticism or thought I was going to try selling her Avon, but when she read it her eyes filled with tears. Her shoulders softened and she smiled. She asked, “Is this from you?” I said, “it’s actually from Scott and I. We are strangers but have noticed all flight long how great you have been with your kids.

Then I turned to Jenna, her daughter. “Hey, what do you think is great about your mommy?” And she started naming a huge long list. “She reads to me. She makes me yummy sandwiches. She makes me laugh.” And on she went. This mom, exhausted, depleted and frustrated, suddenly didn’t seem so overwhelmed after all.

I gave Jenna a little FROG charm to give to her mom. I said to Jenna, “This FROG means Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness and it sounds like your mom is pretty great. Would you like to give it to her?” All smiles she gave it to her with great flourish.

Then I asked who she was going to see and how they are great. She told me all about her family – grandma, uncle, her dad – and I gave her a FROG charm for each one of them and said, “Give this to them and tell them why you love them, okay?” She nodded with a huge smile.

That mom, on the whole plane ride there, felt like a failure or less than. However, through some simple acts of recognition, she could feel great again. See her greatness through some strangers and her daughter’s eyes. 

Who needs recognition from you today who might be feeling less than? Like a failure? Somebody who’s stressed, somebody who’s frustrated, somebody who’s exhausted, who really needs to hear that they are not, you know, negative, deflated, um, not doing well. They need to hear that they have greatness in them and that you can see it even if they don’t see it themselves. Right? Share a kudos card, a thank-you note or post on their Facebook wall. Just say something nice to them and you know what, it is not fluffy stuff. Could you imagine how much more resilient that mom felt when she got off the plane handling an entire day of activities with these two tiny children knowing her greatness rather than seeing her faults?

You can always recognize greatness in people. So that’s my challenge to you today. Recognize somebody who needs it most, not somebody who deserves it the most, but the person who needs it most right now.

By the way, if you would like to get a dose of recognition ideas and tips every single day, you can listen to them on your Amazon Alexa device or app as well as on your Podbean app. Why don’t you subscribe today and inspire yourself or someone you know to recognize greatness every day…after all, it’s everywhere.

Want to check out more resources about how you can recognize other’s greatness? Check out these articles:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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