Brickbats and Bouquets


It occurs to me often that people are very quick to throw brickbats1, but seldom offer bouquets.

Years ago now, there was a women’s magazine that I used to read which had a section on the letters page where people were invited to nominate someone who had gone above and beyond the call of duty. The story would be published in just a couple of paragraphs and the magazine would send a bouquet to the nominee. One might be a hairdresser, for example, who had stayed late to make sure that a client had the perfect hair for an important occasion. Another might be a dustman who had bothered to bring the empty bins inside a property for an elderly person and tuck them away tidily instead of leaving them in the middle of the path outside. You get the idea.

I can’t remember what they actually called this section, but the paragraph which described it said something along the lines of:

“We are all so quick to throw brickbats when someone has annoyed us, but seldom bother to send a bouquet to those who have made us smile.  Today, Mrs X of Anytown would like to nominate …”

And it’s so true. We grumble about things that happen in our daily lives. We send angry letters, and we ring the management, and complain to the newspaper, or the next door neighbour, or the lady in the Post Office, and we criticise freely.  But how often do we take the time to actually thank someone properly, let alone write letters of commendation?

Since reading that magazine, I’ve tried to make a point of doing that, when I think of it. This morning, for instance, while I was at the doctor’s surgery for my appointment, I called at the medicines collection counter to thank the pharmacist for sorting out my husband’s inexplicably delayed prescription so that he had it on Christmas Eve instead of having to wait until after the holidays.  Her face lit up, and she smiled and thanked me for bothering to call in and do that. It’s such a simple thing, and it cost me nothing, and yet it brightened her day just a little bit.

Once you start to think along these lines, it’s amazing what you see. Do you know how many people go through supermarket checkouts without even making eye contact with the person behind the till?  Is it any wonder so many of them look terminally depressed?  Imagine how much it would change someone’s day if everyone smiled and thanked them.

Even though I am aware of all this, I’m conscious that I don’t do it enough, so I think that maybe this will be what passes for my New Year resolution: I will make more of an effort to connect with people, particularly people in service jobs – waiters & waitresses, till operators, bank clerks, bus drivers etc – and simply thank people when they deserve it. Maybe a good thing to do would be to send people a thank you card in the post in the old-fashioned way if they perform their duties extra-well … or better yet, write to their manager and let them know?

What do you do? Drop any ideas in to the comments box, and let’s see what we can come up with.

1 For my non-native English speaking friends or those too young to know this one, a brickbat is a piece of brick or stone used as a missile. If you pick up half a brick and aim it at someone’s head – so tempting sometimes, I know – that’s a brickbat.