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The Sixty-Five Per Cent

Overview

Published: 08/24/2012

by Jim Campbell

Scotty lived in a cozy shack tucked into a small wood near the Rideau River. He built his shack mostly from materials
rescued from the nearby city dump. I first met him on a summer day when I was 10. I was exploring a path on the edge of my neighbourhood in Ottawa South, where the playing fields of Carleton University are now.

 

I saw him as I stepped down from the stile over the fence in the path. He was sitting on a kitchen chair in front of his shack. I knew who he was; we children had been warned to keep away from him –as if that would keep us from having an adventure. He said hello and invited me to sit on a chair beside him, so I did!

 

I discovered he was a great story-teller, a veteran of the First World War, and best of all, he didn’t talk down to a
10-year-old. That long, warm summer, Scotty was my secret friend.

 

Scotty dug ditches for a living – ditches for water and sewer pipes. He was a professional. One evening, he said the
ditch he dug that day was straight as an arrow. He leaned back, a great smile crossed his face; the contractor had told him it was the finest ditch he’d ever seen. He was proud and happy.

 

That summer, I learned a lot: not to rush to judgment about people, that charm and wisdom are priceless gifts, about
trench life in World War I, and that parents can be wrong. What I have remembered most is that straight ditch, and how proud Scotty was of his work, and his joy in the recognition he received.

 

I remembered that day, which was so long ago, when reading about the Duke of Wellington. You might remember hearing
about ‘The Iron Duke’. He was the British general who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo back in 1815. While he certainly knew how to win battles, he was inept in personal relationships. He was a stiff and aloof character. His
reports from the battlefields were always brief and to the point, with very little reference to the bravery, sacrifices and accomplishments of his officers and men.

 

Loaded with honours, he entered politics after the war and served for a time as Prime Minister of Britain. Shortly before he died (in 1852), the Duke was asked if there was anything in his career that he could have done better.
He replied, “Yes, I should have given more praise.” More praise to the officers and men who slugged it out face-to-face with the enemy while he received an abundance of honours and adulation.

How sad; sad for the men who were not recognized for their bravery, and sad for Wellington, who for so long neglected
to acknowledge the debt he owed them.

“I should have given more praise.”

 

While showing appreciation and gratitude is important, a survey in 2011 reported that 65% of Americans received no
recognition in the workplace. Usually percentages like that also easily apply to Canadians. That’s another sad reality.

 

Why are people reluctant to show appreciation? Are they mean, selfish, greedy egotists? Maybe the lack of
gratitude and recognition are caused more by neglect than design.

Could it be because of the high-energy environment of these days, with the pressure to concentrate on the moment, and
on what is next on the to-do list? Is it possible that e-mails, BlackBerries, tweets and blogs act like filters, blurring our

connections with people, masking our dependence on them?

 

Maybe it all goes back to school days, to exams and tests. Praise and recognition are scarce, even when you’ve done your
best; the one with the highest mark gets all the accolades. Is life supposed to be like a big reward show, where many are nominated but only one gets the applause and the gleaming award – and gets a chance to try to be humble?

 

A book could be written about why 65% of workers receive no credit for their efforts. But to explain why would mainly
provide people with handy excuses, rather than generating changes in behaviour.

 

So here’s the plan. In our piece of the action, in our circle, let’s resolve to be alert to the contributions of others
in getting things done, in making things better. Let’s make the effort to recognize achievement, to show appreciation. We could practice at home. When you show appreciation, don’t be surprised to find you feel a lot better too.  

 

 

Jim Campbell is an Oakville-based author and writer. Please send your comments to homedigesteditor@sympatico.ca or via
post to 115 George St., Unit 1524, Oakville ON L6J 0A2.

 

Glimpses Through the Mirror

After many requests from loyal readers over the years, a book of Jim's columns is being produced. Glimpses Through the
Mirror, The Collected Pen Point Columns, published by BPS Books of Toronto, will be available in September from Amazon and other major internet bookstore websites in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia.

 

Illustration for Home Digest by Rui Ramalheiro

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