The Incredible Power of a Simple Acknowledgement

I can’t believe it was over twenty years ago when my husband and I sat in an introduction evening for the Landmark Forum. The Forum Leader was a steely faced man called Jack Schropp. I loved him from the minute I heard him talk. He was a Navy SEAL through three tours of Vietnam and every soldier under his command returned home safely.

His oh-so-dry sense of humour moved even the toughest listener. That night he looked at each person in that room with a stern unwavering presence and waited till there was absolute silence. Then, slowly, very slowly  he said “Good Evening,  My name is Jack Schropp, and this is me smiling.”  The room fell apart laughing.

For the next ten years Oren and I participated in many Landmark courses and we enrolled all our children into their age appropriate courses too.

When Jack died, in 2018, his wife Shari wrote, “He used to tell me that ‘making a difference’ is not about getting your face on a dollar bill one day or getting medals. It’s about making a difference in the moment, when the momentary opportunity arrives.

One of those moments arrived a few days ago. I received a note written by someone living not too far away in my suburb. She introduced herself as Millie, shared a little about her understanding of the difficulties some older people are facing during lock down and offered to do some shopping or give a hand if anyone needed it. Just so happened that I had been unwell that week and thought it would really help me if she took my dog for a little walk. She came and picked up Bentley and I felt a big weight lift off me. I really wanted my dog to go out but it had been so difficult and suddenly I was able to relax knowing he was having some exercise.

She had popped her letter in many people’s letter boxes, wrote only her first name and left it at that.

I learned many things through Landmark, but the one that has stuck like glue is this. Many of our actions, words and behaviour are connected to fixing something, becoming something or getting somewhere. Think about it. In other words there is usually an ‘in order to’ be seen, be heard, be noticed, be understood. Often it’s so ingrained in us we don’t even notice that is what we are doing.

The one thing that does not involve an ‘in order to’, is real, authentic acknowledgment.

As Forum leader, Jo DiMaggio wrote,  “When we’re really generating acknowledgment, we’re literally standing in nothing, being given by nothing, and bring nothing into our giving or receiving of acknowledgment. Nothing is the foundation for possibility. Acknowledgment ultimately brings something into being—something that we’re actually creating. Acknowledgment at that juncture becomes a very powerful catalyst.”

So why am I telling you this now? Well I was so moved by Millie’s genuine kindness and open hearted generosity, I posted a copy of her letter onto a Facebook site called Willoughby Living along with my appreciation for the beautiful community I am blessed to live in.

Next day there were literally 1,300 comments!!

People apparently were as moved as I was. That small acknowledge of Millie, was picked up by a news station, and was published as far away as the United Kingdom. That small acknowledgment found a life of its own and went on to touch more people than I could have  imagined.

“Real acknowledgment is not true-or-false, right-or-wrong—it doesn’t describe, report on, express, command, or manipulate. It’s not to make something happen, produce a result, make us or another feel good. There is no scarcity of things for which to acknowledge someone, there’s an abundance.” Jo DiMaggio

I have no idea how many people have been touched and inspired by Millie’s note, but I do know that through a simple acknowledgement, it became a catalyst for people to be moved and inspired.

Acknowledging someone can be as simple as thanking them, giving little compliment, dropping them a note, or just letting them know you appreciate them.

It can be anonymous or not.

Is there someone you feel called to acknowledge? If so don’t wait. All we have is now.




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