In a backpack where every item was carefully considered and every ounce judiciously accounted for, I included a sheet of gold stars and carried them from Tahoe to Whitney. These stars were for special accomplishments, namely reaching the top of a summit or peak. Rich and I earned our first gold stars on top of Dick’s Pass where there wasn’t anyone around to so much as take our picture. But most of our gold stars were earned on less solitary summits, and that’s where the real joy of the gold stars is, in sharing them with others.
I passed out dozens of gold stars. Nobody has ever declined one. Fourteen year-old girls and sixty year-old men accept them just as readily as weekend hikers and long distance hikers. On top of Silver Pass I gave one to Jeremy who I had passed earlier as he struggled up the hill to the pass. When I saw him a few days later at Marie Lakes he mentioned the tiny sticker I’d given him. Karen got very frustrated by her struggles to keep her gold stars from falling off and mentioned more than once how much they mean to her. When I passed out stars at Muir Pass the northbound thru-hiker that I was last to hand one to quietly admitted that for a minute she had been afraid I wasn’t going to give her one. I met two girls, Melanie and Bena, on top of Glenn Pass when I gave them stars. Days later they waited for me on top of Forrester Pass so they could get another one. These simple little stars were important.
About ½ the time recipients asked me as I peeled their sticker off and handed it to them if I’m a teacher, and of course the answers is yes. Yes, I know the power of a gold star. I know the power of acknowledging your hard work. I know it is important to appreciate your accomplishment. Yes, I know the joy of sharing a celebration. I know that we all still have that elementary school kid in us that wants to be recognized. Yes, I hike with a sheet of gold stars in my pack and it is well worth the weight.
What acknowledgments have been special to you?