I was walking through St Andrew's Park yesterday on my way to work when I looked up to see three words chalked on the gate-post: YOU ARE LOVED. It may not have been directed at me specifically (though one should never assume anything), but nonetheless it brightened my somewhat weary mood considerably and set me up for the day. No wonder one writer referred to compliments as 'verbal sunshine'.
This is the third compliment I've received recently that has had such a positive effect on me. The glazier who did our windows in our old house came round to give Richard a quote in the new house, and said 'Oh yes, you're the one with the lovely wife'. Lovely! Me! Lovely! Richard probably regretted telling me, as I went round saying 'Lovely!' at inappropriate moments for days afterwards.
The first one was my favourite, though. Out I stumbled from my sweaty tent on a sunny morning at Greenbelt, bleary-eyed from 3 days at a festival and desperate to scrub the fungus off my teeth. Whilst sharing a communal tap with a stranger she suddenly turned to me and said, 'You look amazing! You must be wearing make-up!' (I wasn't).
Yes I know - setting much store by one's appearance is very shallow, and I would far rather be thought of as lovely on the inside. But there was something about the genuine expansiveness of this stranger's compliment that really touched me, and left me smiling for the rest of the day. She may not have had her contact lenses in. She may have decided to say that to everyone who shared a tap with her throughout the festival (in which case, good for her!). But it made me think about all the times I could have given a compliment - when I appreciated something in another human being - but didn't, perhaps because I'm too embarrassed, too British. I'd like to try it more often.
Mark Twain said 'I can live two months off a good compliment'. Those three should therefore last me through till the end of February 08. But please don't let that stop you from giving me another one, and I'll try to do the same for you.