The power of praise

Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

Here's one thing baseball has taught me about long-term care—all financial problems would disappear if we priced our services like ballpark beer. But there's another lesson to be learned.

Craving a pure shot of adrenaline and sensory stimulation, I recently attended a semi-professional Seattle Mariners game. It was an odd place to seek excitement, I realize, but the library was closed, and I'd already re-alphabetized my vinyl record collection by artist middle name. So options were few.

I'm not saying Our National Pastime isn't a wonderful sport. I just find it more sedating than exhilarating, and for several innings fought a powerful urge to lay my head on the pillow of third base and just nap in the sunshine. I really don't think anyone would have noticed, as little was happening out there.

The people next to me seemed to share my lack of enthusiasm for the game. They sat passively through hitter after hitter, barely watching, and chatting about anything but baseball. But a flurry of activity near the visitor's dug-out finally caught their attention, and they leapt to their feet wildly cheering as a crew of groundskeepers took the field and began an exquisitely choreographed field manicure.

After a few minutes, I finally caught on. A family member was one of the rake-wielders, and they were cheering him on like he was Kirk Gibson hitting his legendary ninth-inning World Series home run. A few times he glanced up and smiled sheepishly, thoroughly and deliciously embarrassed. All while a flock of egotistical millionaires in jaunty outfits stood nearby, entirely ignored. 

I left the game with my own walk-off insight, that it's always the right time to honor the unsung heroes who anchor our long-term care teams. To give them a little extra love and attention. To turn the spotlight their direction for a change, and get the crowd chanting their unfamiliar names.

Because nothing's more motivating and refreshing than unexpected praise. Not even an overpriced ballpark beer.