A Gold Star for You!


Remember when you were a kid, what a thrill it was to find a shiny gold star on your school paper? Of course, not all teachers give gold stars, so some people may never have experienced this exact feeling of glittery, giddy accomplishment. That’s a shame. I have been known to give the college students in the Entrepreneurship in the Arts class I teach at Wichita State University gold stars on their papers. When they’ve done an extra good job. They may find this eccentric, but there’s something magical about this symbol of achievement that takes us back to our childhood.

I love to give out gold stars. I carry them in my wallet, and hand them out when the opportunity presents itself. I started handing them out when I began writing “please ask for ID” on the signature line of my debit and credit cards, as an extra security precaution. Unfortunately, I found that very few people even look at the signatures on the cards, let alone compare them to the signature on the receipt. It felt like such a momentous occasion when someone was actually paying attention, that I decided to surprise them with a gold star sticker.

My favorite part of giving gold stars, is the reaction I get from people. I thank the person for doing a great job, tell them they’ve earned a gold star, and why. The look of joy on their faces is priceless. Lots of people laugh. Some people have shed tears. But it always turns a frown upside down, on even the crankiest cuss. At the Iditarod Trail Headquarters gift shop in Wasilla, Alaska, the gold star I gave one person created such a stir, and made the rest of the staff so jealous, I ended up giving everyone gold stars!

Who could resist this?

We’re all just big, grown up kids, pretending to be adults. To be able to go back and tap into the joy we felt when we were children is profound. Recently, professional musician and bully prevention activist Jenny Wood, was a guest speaker for my college class. She inspired us all with what she shared about the music business. But, what I loved the most was what she said about having the confidence to get up on stage, and own it like a rock star. She said that she remembers what it felt like when she was a child, and sang and danced in front of the mirror in her bedroom with complete abandon, just for the joy of it. When she performs, she goes back to that feeling, letting the joy of making music overcome all fears and self-doubt. She is my shero.

Now I look for other reasons to give gold stars: great customer service, catching someone do something nice for someone, or just because it looks like someone needs one. Now, more than ever, it seems like people are looking for reasons to be disgruntled. It must be human nature to look for the bad in things, instead of the good. So, let’s try to focus on being just as free with our compliments as we are with our complaints. Telling people they’re doing a great job is so easy to do, and makes such a big impact on someone’s day. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: It will brighten your day too.

I’ve noticed that it can be shocking to people to be complimented. I love telling complete strangers that they “look fabulous!” or that I appreciate something they’ve done. Some people look at me like I have three heads, but that’s okay. Some people don’t know how to take a compliment or are suspicious about what I might be up to. With others, it’s started conversations that have led to friendships. Acknowledging people, showing that we see who they are, is one of the kindest things we can do for one another. We all just want to be heard.

After all, it’s the little things in life that make big differences. A kind word. A friendly smile. A moment shared. A gold star sticker.

Who will you give a gold star to today?

Headmistress Jill

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