It is a great gift in life to act, to give, to learn, to love without needing any recognition. Tonight was the awards ceremony at the local high school where like in all the high schools across the country, the same 15 kids were recognized over and over for achievements in sports, academics and volunteering. When you aren’t one of the 15, you can’t help feeling at least a little invisible. My daughter was recognized once for a scholarship she won, but passed over for some academic achievement for which she thought she would be named. I watched her spirit fall there next to me, and she held back the tears of disappointment. She wanted to be happy for the kids who won, but the weight of invisibility would not allow the joy.

It is another space in between a rock and a hard place. We want to be big enough to celebrate another person’s success, especially a friend or loved one, and yet can’t quite understand how our own achievements are not enough. Sadness and disappointment can taste bitter and the experience itself can get lost behind it all. Learning to separate the achievement and the recognition is a life’s work.

It is a task worth accomplishing because sustaining loving relationships provides endless opportunities to give of oneself with absolutely no recognition. The repetitious and mundane tasks of living, especially with growing children, rarely provide the feedback and recognition that the energy to keep it going deserve. Chop wood, carry water, pick up laundry and deliver it clean…meal after meal that is prepared, served, cleaned up… this is the stuff of life that must ultimately be an end in itself.

How is this accomplished… no easy answers here. But I recall some Buddhist teachings about filling up our own tanks. Here is where the inner world is larger and more important than the outer. When we hold enough of ourselves dearly and with the same esteem with which we love others, we can offer our efforts and our love freely. There is enough left over for us. When we move beyond recognition, something in us also goes there- we transcend our smaller selves and for moments at a time experience love. No strings attached.