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Research shows that expressing gratitude and praising others also benefits the giver. Case in point: my daughter's letter to "Superman."

How to Invite Superman to the Prom (and the Benefits of Expressing Gratitude)

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By day, among other roles, I am a mother to a 16-year-old daughter. This past weekend we traveled to the area’s best dress shop for her to try on prom dresses. In truth, it is one of the only dress shops in a 100-mile radius of us.

That same night a couple of her girlfriends had a sleepover at our house. To entice them off the Internet, and away from another movie, I suggested they write a letter to someone they admire. My daughter thought out loud what it would be like to take Superman to the prom. Prom isn’t till April but the more “popular” girls in this small class of 100 have been asked already. She has been a Tom Welling and Smallville fan since she stumbled upon him while searching for something good to watch on Netflix.

Over the years I encouraged her to send thank-yous through the post in place of a quick email, to have phone conversations over texting, and to plan real gatherings in public places instead of serial snap chatting. We live out in the country, and she being an only child makes these real contacts that much more valuable.

On the night of the sleepover I found stationery, stamps and envelopes for the girls. Each chose someone to send a fan letter to. (One chose a local musician.) My daughter asked what she should say to Tom Welling. My singular guidance was to be authentic. To be her self.

With her permission, I share her fan letter to Tom Welling and her invitation to have Superman (as Clark Kent) escort her to the prom.

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Dear Tom Welling,

Your ten seasons of Smallville were amazing and they couldn’t have picked a better actor for the main role of Clark Kent! I have loved the story of Superman forever and when I found out about Smallville I got so excited! It is honestly my favorite show and I even managed to get some of my friends into it as well, they are always borrowing from my season collection.

I live in the country outside of my town, Spring Green, Wisconsin. I live with my parents, horses, and dogs. Unlike everyone else in my school, I am an only child, just like Clark! I don’t come from another planet, though, but I feel as if I do sometimes…

I am a junior at our River Valley high school. Kind of a small town like Smallville, but just a bit smaller. It is actually so small, it is really slim pickings for a prom date, let alone I am not the most popular girl in my class… I am kind of a quiet person with a few close friends and I am really into art. I am pretty much designing our whole gym for prom; our theme is USA (thanks to the boys…)

Anyway it is literally my dream to have you escort me (or “Superman”) but I am guessing you get asked every year by hundreds of girls, which is not hard to believe.

Either way I would very much appreciate an autographed photo from you! Some day I hope to meet you, maybe on my next trip to California.

Thanks for being the coolest Clark Kent!

[She asked that I withhold her name]

P.S. at this point, our prom is scheduled for Saturday, April 26th, your birthday!

I believe that even Superman would be lifted up by such praise. I am uplifted in the reading of it.

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“There is no distinction between the one who gives, the one who receives, and the gift itself.” Thích Nhất Hạnh

Research shows that expressing gratitude and praising others also benefits the giver. The one who bestows fan mail, handwritten thank-yous, stand-up applause, and verbal praise benefits as much as, if not more than, the one receiving the acknowledgment. Research also reveals that people who praise others are usually emotionally intelligent, confident, and observant, and like making others feel good about themselves. Sounds like a superhero to me.

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Such simple acknowledgment is the heroic act.

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer 

About Julie Tallard Johnson

Julie Tallard Johnson is a psychotherapist, creative writing consultant and concept manager for individuals and businesses. She has been studying the scientific basis of thought transformation, inspiration, and creativity for 35 years. She is the author of several books, her latest, The Zero Point Agreement: How To Be Who You Already Are is available now in paperback and Kindle. She is a writing instructor at the UW-Madison, Continuing Studies. She enjoys being a writer for Blogcritics and is in search of her next article. She lives in rural Wisconsin on 40 acres of restored prairie and woods.

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