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Apr 13, 2022

Gold Stars Shouldn’t Be Only For Toddlers

Some everyday things that really could use some recognition

By Ed Goldman

When my dentist told me at a recent appointment that I was doing a better job flossing my teeth and gums than I’d been doing the last four or five times I’d seen him, I was disappointed.

Not that I was doing better, but that he didn’t make more of a fuss about it. I explained that we’re all seven years old when we climb into that chair.

Edgy Cartoon

Meritorius Pallor

Dr. Greg Owyang—whose late father Hing was my dentist when I first moved here in 1976, and who became my dentist about 25 years ago—clapped me on the shoulder, laughed and said, “Okay, keep this up and next time I’ll give you a gold star.”

I was going to hold out for a sugar-free lollipop but I thought I’d embarrassed us (well, myself) enough.

Then I got to thinking (an opening phrase that frightens most of the people in my orbit): Since countless HR studies have established that employees crave recognition and communication even more than pay raises, why shouldn’t I get that gold star?

And why not the following?

  • A certificate of merit for all the times I return my shopping cart to the grocery store or one of its outdoor storage racks. When you consider how the cost of food has been climbing, isn’t it good-hearted of me to still not abandon my cart in the parking lot for some hapless store employee to retrieve? I return my carts properly at least 40 percent of the time, so would it kill the store to not only present me with the certificate but also frame it?
  • One tote bag each from the local public radio station and public TV station for my not yelling at their on-air personnel during pledge drives. Or for my not writing an indignant letter to the general manager of local commercial stations every time a newscaster pronounces “jewelry” as “joolery,” “realtor” as “RElutter” and “mediocrity” as “mediocrasy?”
  • A Starbucks gift card for my not mentioning—other than right here and now—that even with inflation, supply chain blockage and the Build Back Better fiasco, a gallon of gas still costs less than a “grande” Frappuccino. And that if asked to, I think most gas station attendants could spell my two-lettered given name on the first try.

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  • A lovely potted plant from the EPA, Green Party or the group whose members manacle their torsos to redwood trees—presumably to protest the trees’ removal though I’ve heard of kinkier reasons during trips to Hollywood over the years—for my continuing to separate my garbage into two bins: blue for recycling and olive drab for partially eaten leftovers (many of which were also olive drab, ergo the partially eaten descriptor. I have a half-serious suspicion that all of the stuff winds up in one massive receptacle, landfill or as the foundation of a Florida condominium tower. But I’m too lazy to doublecheck. (I’m also fearful that if my investigation rattled the wrong underworld cages, I’d wind up as the foundation of a Florida condominium tower.)
  • A drop-shipment of free solar panels for dutifully not running my dishwasher, washing machine, clothes dryer or nemeses-diminishing wood chipper during certain high-peak demand hours (like midnight to 11:59 p.m., if I remember correctly). I also turn off my indoor lights inside when I retire for the evening, even though when that act is preceded by the consumption of pepperoni pizza and dark beer, the subsequent visitation by zombies, ghosts and whole-life insurance reps, all of whom thrive in energy-saving darkness, is a tad unnerving. What saves me is knowing, even in the depths of my nightmares, that I’ll end up saving four or five cents per kilowatt year for my efforts.

I think that could be enough for me to buy myself a box of gold stars. Or even a sugar-free lollipop .

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, Inc.

photo by Phoebe Verkouw


This month the Sacramento Business Journal announced its honorees for the 2022 Corporate Citizen Awards. I’m very proud that my dear friend and colleague Sister Libby Fernandez of Mercy Pedalers, was awarded for “exemplary efforts that make a difference in the community.”

In 2017, Sister Libby founded Mercy Pedalers to “connect and build trusting relationships with those experiencing homelessness… to reach out and connect with hundreds of people experiencing homelessness with the gift of presence.” 

I am proud to be one of the first supporters of Mercy Pedalers. 

I’ve chaired the Mercy Pedalers Board of Directors since its start.  At this time, the organization has grown to more than 75 bicyclists and tricyclists pedaling daily on the streets in Sacramento and other Northern California cities, reaching out in a very direct manner to men and women experiencing homelessness on the streets.

I believe in Mercy Pedalers and its deceptively  simple concept of service to all in the community.  

This ministry of basic presence is based on a concept of mercy, and powered by people like you and me, who pedal through the streets of Sacramento connecting with all of our neighbors by asking their names, having human conversations, offering a cup of coffee or some act of care. 

It’s been my honor to be a part of Mercy Pedalers. 

My life changed as I got to know and admire Sister Libby who says, “Through my 20-plus years of working directly with people experiencing homelessness on the streets of Sacramento, I found that being present in the moment, sharing a cup of coffee together, and calling the person by name are the most important gifts one can offer. As a Mercy Pedaler my daily mission is to welcome each person I meet with dignity and respect.”

If you have some volunteer time left in your portfolio of humanity, please consider joining Sister Libby and me. It’s the best “spokes-person” role you’ll ever have!

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