19 July 2013

The Gratitude Project

Most summers, for me, entail some type of improvement project, usually of the home variety.  This summer, though, I wanted to do something meaningful that hopefully would have a positive ripple effect of some sort into the wider world.  I knew that I wanted it to have something to do with gratitude, because that is the predominant attitude I’ve tried to hold throughout this year of trials.  A gratitude journal, where on a daily basis you record three to five things for which you feel grateful, didn’t quite fit the bill.  It was too personal and self-reflecting.  I did some searching and happened upon this cute website that entertained me for a while, but wasn’t what I was seeking either.  But thxthxthx did drop the hint of writing thank you notes. 

And so I decided to write a thank you note each Monday through Friday this summer, from June 3 until today.  Each day I woke up and considered various people in my life and chose one to thank, thirty-four in all (I took Independence Day off).  Some of them were pretty standard thank you notes:  thanks for a place to stay, thanks for feeding our cat while we were out of town, and so forth.  Some were so heartfelt that I was reduced to tears while writing them.  In others, I wanted to express my gratitude at that person’s presence in my life and my admiration.  In many, I included a quotation that seemed meaningful to the connection I felt with that person.  A surprising and unintended effect was that many recipients thanked me for thanking them.

I had a simple set of rules:  the notes had to be handwritten; they had to mention some specific quality or thing about the person it was addressed to, and only one card could be written per day.  The act of writing by hand, addressing, and stamping each one forced me to pause each day and to focus on that person and his or her impact on my life.  There were times when the scope of the project loomed heavy, but the act of writing each one was never a chore.  If anything, it was a process of unburdening - of saying that which too often goes unsaid.  As the project neared its end, I felt a little scattered, like it needed to be extended because I still had more people to thank.  But today feels like a proper time to end it, with other events needing my focus and attention.  I also realized that writing a thank you note doesn’t require a project - I can do it any time, for any reason.

Overall, it was a pretty emotional experience, but also a very grounding one.  Each day I was reminded of the richness of this life - how people are the center of it all, and how seldom we truly acknowledge the textures and contributions made by others to our lives.  These small notes were a tangible way of making the abstract qualities of gratitude a bit more concrete.  The French have a saying, gratitude is the heart’s memory, and my heart is full-to-bursting that I am lucky to be a part of so many amazing people’s lives. 

1 comment:

  1. honored to be a part of it. thank you so very much for your kindness.