Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stop Clapping

Why do people clap for the most mundane reasons? You've observed this phenomenon and I bet you haven't even noticed it. But it's becoming more and more obvious. We'll clap for anything and anybody these days.

I was at a Christian parenting seminar held at a religious high school. To help promote the school, several students were on the platform. One student did the evening's announcements. After she was done, the audience clapped. Hmmm! Another student prayed for the evening. More applause. I thought to myself, "Why are these people clapping? What did the students do that was so great that deserved the accolades of the audience? Are we that thoughtless in dishing out out praise? Did these students win silver or gold Olympic medals or something equivalent?

At another meeting I attended, the speaker thanked a dozen people for making the evening presentation possible. After everyone's name, there was a large round of applause (how boring). Yet some of these people were paid to do these jobs. Why are people clapping for the person who arranged for the evening's meal? Did they cook the food? Bring out the kitchen crew, and we'll clap for them.

Next we had to clap for each person who was a member of the board of directors. At this juncture, I refused to clap. I couldn't take it anymore. I feel like we are living life as if we're all guests on the Jay Leno or David Letterman show. The audience claps for each celebrity and adds applause for each media project they mention from the dais. It;'s nauseating at times. Why do celebrities deserve so much praise and adulation? What's so great about starring on a TV show or making a movie?

I think Leno and Letterman should interview everyday people as well who have accomplished other feats other than singing, dancing or acting. How about a few electricians, nurses or sanitation workers? Doesn't a sanitation worker deserve clapping for picking up your garbage? What if he didn't pick up your garbage for three straight weeks? Oh, you'd be clapping when he shows up week four to haul away your trash!

We are a clapping society. We clap for kids at Little League games for almost anything they do on a baseball diamond such as not swinging at four pitches out of total fear and drawing a base on balls. We clap at kids for showing up at an school event out of obligation. "Let's hear it for Ms. Smith's fourth grade class." Why are we clapping?

Both of my sons received trophies for every baseball or basketball team they ever played on because they were on the team. They were awarded with a statuette even if they never won a game all year. Their bedrooms were always laden with what I called "showing-up trophies."

What's wrong with our culture that we throw trophies at our kids for doing practically nothing. Oh yes, we don't want to crush their self-esteem. Yet we don't mind over-inflating their self-esteem by taking away their sense of competition and rivalry.

One of my son's basketball coaches had the guts to not hand out a trophy to each member of the squad. Instead, he gave each kid a copy of Coach Wooden's book Wooden. The book contained memorable quotes from John Wooden's years of coaching several UCLA championship basketball teams. However, to the kids who excelled on the team, he handed out trophies and labeled each one describing their achievements. It was so meaningful that I clapped!

Let's quit the clapping for people who are simply doing their jobs or praising wives simply for being married to the evening's speaker. Is he that difficult of a person that the wife needs praise for the tolerating him?

In other words, we need to put back meaning into our applause.

One more thing, please don't clap for me merely because I wrote this article.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm generally annoyed by overzealous clapping too, but what if clapping has also become about about encouragement rather than recognition? I think it becomes much more reasonable if that is the case and, whether conscious or unconscious, I believe that that is, largely, what it has become in our culture.