Virgin Atlantic is targeting a growing market in pet travel by launching a special frequent flyer scheme for jet-setting dogs, cats and other animals.So far, four dogs and a cat have been signed up to Flying Paws reward scheme since it was launched earlier this month. Dogs taking their first Virgin trip will be given a T-shirt and dog tag, while cats receive a toy mouse. Ferrets - a surprisingly popular animal companion for Britons - get a flying jacket and collar tag. Once pets have notched up five "paw prints" in their frequent flyer book, they can acquire other goodies such as hand-made food bowls, while yet more trips win pedicures or Burberry, Prada and Gucci pet clothing.
Whether the rewards will encourage pets to choose Virgin Atlantic over other transatlantic airlines remains to be seen. But for most human beings in our attempts to live well, it’s not this kind of reward that inspires us. We feel good when we have done something satisfying whether it is superficially for someone else’s benefit or our own. The reward is in the doing.
This may well have been Jesus’ view too. He distinguished between two types of reward. One was the approval of our fellow human beings. The other comes from God. The nature and timing of God’s reward is not specified but the context suggests there is an element of hiddenness about it. The inherent satisfaction that comes from doing something because it’s right, hidden as it is from the sight of others, is a way of rewarding us that God has built into the way we humans are made.
Few people now believe that notching up stars in our “frequent good deeds book”is going to produce any reward. Instead let’s delight in the enjoyment we get from being people who care about others – it’s God’s gift and God’s way of saying “Thank you and well done”
"It was a very long kiss," says Edith Shain, seen here in Times Square beside a sculpture of her and an unknown sailor. "It was like a dance step, the way he laid me over in his arms." Based on a photograph taken in the same place on Aug. 14, 1945, the sculpture by Seward Johnson was unveiled two years ago on the 60th anniversary of VJ Day. The kiss has become an icon of the Allies’ exuberant joy at the end of hostilities. Mrs Shain said she closed her eyes and never looked at the sailor. "I just got lost in the moment," said the 87-year-old great-grandmother from Santa Monica. "I let him kiss me because he had been in the war and he fought for me. I only wish now I had had a conversation with him or asked his name." But the sailor's identity remains a mystery.
Sheer exuberance often results in the lowering of inhibition. The longing to celebrate, to delight in unadulterated joy, takes precedence on such occasions over our more accustomed reserve, particularly in the company of strangers. But such moments of letting go have such a freeing and energising character that they can remain in the memory longer even than the events which inspired them.
There is much in life to be exuberant about and most of it arises not from something extraordinary but from ordinary events experienced in a fresh and more than usually appreciative way. Some of the commonplace things happening to us or around us today might inspire such celebration if only we allowed ourselves to experience their full wonder. Our exuberance might not be appreciated if we express it by kissing the first stranger we meet but letting go of anything which inhibits our delight in God’s marvellous gift of life could be a freeing and an energising experience.
Ursula Grover has won the Royal Mail's Young Letter Writer of the Year contest. Over 50,000 entrants wrote a letter to their Hero. She chose the person who invented rhubarb crumble. “I think you are extremely clever to have invented such a scrumptious recipe! I make it every Sunday because I LOVE it!!” she wrote. “When you eat it the taste of rhubarb comes zooming into your mouth and you feel absolutely refreshed. I am really lucky because my next door neighbours grow rhubarb and give some to me!"
What some of us take for granted, the eight-year-old was wise enough to appreciate – the wisdom of the one who first put together the ingredients which make up her favorite pudding. It isn’t just that she knows how to enjoy it, she’s learnt to make it for herself.
Our lives are made up of a wide variety of ingredients and we all have our own idea of the best recipe. Jesus offered one based around the instructions to love God and each other. But very few of his contemporaries seemed grateful for his suggestions about how to put together a life. On the first Palm Sunday some shouted and cheered but the moment soon passed. Events later that same week suggested a very different reaction.
Today we might reflect on all the things which go into our lives and how we blend them into a whole. If the resulting cuisine puts a “zoom” into our hearts, we may wish to say thank you. Perhaps the best way to do that is continue to go by the recipe of the one who gave us the ingredients.
Ringo Starr told his fellow Beatles one day that he loved getting postcards. He got this one almost exactly 36 years ago. Four months previously, Ringo had let his dismay at Paul’s habit of overdubbing his drum tracks be known. John and George immediately sent cards of encouragement and respect and Ringo had returned to rehearsals. Paul chose only later to send this card of appreciation of Ringo’s skill. It was when the band was beginning to break up and Paul needed Ringo’s support in the decision over who would control the band’s affairs when that happened.
Many of our expressions of appreciation and gratitude have behind them a variety of motives. Our warmth towards the recipient may well produce a reciprocal kindness. We may feel, as Paul seems to have done, that expressing admiration may create an ally. We may feel sorry for someone and want to offer a word of support. These underlying reasons may well be there even when the compliment is completely sincere. They are all part of the complicated layers of relationship we have with each other.
From the point of view of the recipient, however, there is nothing quite like completely disinterested admiration. Many people’s automatic response to receiving appreciation is inwardly to suspect some ulterior motive. For there not to be any creates a sense of wellbeing and increases self-confidence.
We need to be honest about why we’re telling someone we like what they do. If it’s really only flattery, we shouldn’t say it. Appreciation that’s truthful, whatever the reasons for offering it, is always worth giving even if the real gold is pure, unadulterated praise. If that’s we feel at any time today, let’s not forget to put it into words.
At Joe Soprano’s Italian and American Grill in New York, they want an 18% tip for large groups. So Joe was not happy when Humberto A. Taveras and his party refused to pay. In fact the police were called and Mr Taveras now faces a court appearance. The case will be the first in New York to test the legal validity of tipping but perhaps there’s a wider issue. Tipping is a customary way of expressing thanks for good service but do any of us have a right to expect gratitude?
We certainly want it. A strong part of the motivation for our helpfulness is likely to be the desire to be appreciated. This is no bad thing. There’s a warmth that flows through us when someone thanks us and it gives our egos the kind of boost which is good for our self-confidence.
When the things we do for others are not noticed, it hurts. It can make us never want to help them again. Here lies the challenge. Either it is the loving thing to do to put time and effort into supporting someone or it isn’t – the prospect of getting thanked is only an additional incentive. If today, we feel unappreciated, it might be right to stop what we were doing. Perhaps it really wasn’t what was wanted. Maybe our desire to be valued was blinding us to the other’s true needs. On the other hand, the support we gave may have been just what was required– their inability to be appreciative was simply another indication of their neediness. If so, we need to keep it up – making do, if we need to, with patting our own backs.