Wednesday, 19 October 2016

"Thank you," "you're doing a good job," and other priceless awards

I was chatting to someone at an event recently, and the topic of longevity in the SCA came up. Since very shortly after I joined, I've been told that the average SCAdian lasts around 3-5 years before quitting. I've heard a few reasons for this - internal politics, failure to integrate into one group or another, event burnout, etc. - but this person had a slightly different perspective.

In your first 1-5 years in the Society, it's common to receive quite a lot of recognition fairly quickly for the things that you do. If you're active, you'll probably get an Award of Arms, maybe a baronial award for service, combat, and/or arts and sciences, and possibly even a kingdom-level award for the same. After that, there's quite a long gap. Everyone knows that you make beautiful clothes or run the best events around, and since you've been recognized for it, there's not much more to say - at least, unless you receive a peerage ten or fifteen years down the road for it. You start to feel forgotten or underappreciated after a while, which makes other small annoyances seem larger.

Now, I'm not sure that I totally agree with this person's perspective. (I'm not sure everyone is that bothered about how often they receive awards.) However, if people leaving the SCA is at least partially caused by feeling underappreciated by the community, it may be possible to fix it. It's good practice in general to express appreciation for the people around you.

At a recent meeting of the Montengarde Culinary Group, someone went out of their way to tell me that they thought I'd been doing a good job. I respect this person hugely, and that small comment was worth much more to me than any formal award I've received to this point. The simple courtesy of just saying "thank you," "you did a wonderful job," or even "I love how you do 'x'" in a meaningful, sincere way can be even more important than an award recommendation to someone whose energy is flagging.

Here are some of the ways I intend to show more gratitude and appreciation for others in the SCA in the future:
  1. After eating my meal, I will make a point of thanking at least one member of the feast team for taking dozens of hours out of their busy schedule to cook for the populace.
  2. When I check in at gate, I will thank whoever is sitting in the cold, wet, or blazing heat (the three seasons of Avacal) for taking the time out to check people in.
  3. When I notice people moving tables, thrones, erics, or other heavy items, especially on a regular basis, I will thank them for the hard physical work that they do so that we can all enjoy the event. We don't get to see their bruises, sore muscles, and stubbed toes the next day - but we can all appreciate the ability to sit and watch court or take shelter under the pavilions they put up!
  4. I will clean up after myself, and if possible, stay late to help the tear-down team. It's an incredibly difficult job, especially after a long day, and even one more set of hands makes it go so much faster. If I am unable to stay to clean up, I will thank the people tearing down for sacrificing their time to do it for the rest of us.
  5. I will make a note to thank royalty and landed barons/baronesses for their incredibly important service at some point during their reign. Even though I have only a very little experience on retinue for Her Majesty Queen Inga, I have had a small glimpse into how very difficult it is to do these duties and how much of a sacrifice it is to serve the entire kingdom as a royal or landed peer.
  6. I will thank officers as they step up and step down for their service. Their administrative work in the background makes it possible for us to organize ourselves and play this game. I promise to never say "poor you" or "what a sucker" when someone takes an office. I will not speak sarcastically about officer positions, complain about the fact that nobody has taken an office, or complain about an officer in a non-constructive fashion, and I will do my best to take on an office when time and energy allow.
  7. I will thank people who regularly host activities in their own home, and those who organize activities, championships, prize competitions, and tournaments with their own time and energy. Without them, we wouldn't have fight practice, A&S practice, Polyphonia, archery practice, dance practice, Culinary Group, tavern, and many more things besides!
  8. I will thank the event stewards every time I attend an event for all of the sleepless nights, hours planning, and stress around putting an event together. If I need to communicate with an event steward during the event planning process, I will speak to them with the kindness, gratefulness and respect that I would if someone was doing me a personal favor. They are doing everyone in the kingdom a personal favor by taking on the responsibility of hosting the event.
  9. I will speak about the research, arts, martial activities, or service which other people enjoy with the greatest respect and enthusiasm. I will not fool myself into thinking that the activities and tasks I like to do in the SCA are more important, essential, or interesting than anyone else's. I will not suggest that what I enjoy should take more precedence than what someone else enjoys.
  10. If I like what someone is doing, I will say so. If I appreciate what someone has done, I will say so. If someone has inspired me through their actions or words, I will tell them.
How do you show your appreciation for the people in your shire, barony, or kingdom? 

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