I first learned about gratitude writing thank you notes and as part of good manners as a child. This practice was then honed during my ten years living in the South, where all the best of my Junior League friends rubbed off on me. I love writing notes (no surprise!) and have always been a thank you note writer for the simple fact that it was an excuse, of sorts, to collect cards and write notes.
As an adult I’ve learned to value and more deeply understand the importance of an actual gratitude practice. Being grateful is heralded as one of the traits of happy people and a critical component of many a self improvement or spiritual programs. But how to truly build a gratitude practice, gratitude as an art or a way of being in the world?
When I worked in an elementary school during undergrad, I learned this ritual of feathering a turkey each year during the Thanksgiving season. My then husband and I first did this as newlyweds and sometimes house guests would join in the fun. The ritual became a family favorite as the kids grew to the age of being able to write. One of my favorite memories of this practice is the year my youngest started preschool and had a best friend. Each night, he would write her name in scribbles on one of the feathers. We had to cut more feathers….the turkey became huge that year and was full of India’s name in three-year-old script. Here’s our turkey from a few years ago:
As I began hanging art on the fence and pondering ways to make the art interactive, we started sharing this practice with our neighbors. Fun, beautiful, and profound responses emerged to the prompt “I am thankful for”.
This blog posts highlights last year’s thankfulness in Glen Park.
At the beginning of 2013, Andrea Scher shared her gratitude buddy practice in a post on her Superhero Life blog and invited readers to be matched with a gratitude buddy. Ever so glad I jumped in and accepted her offer! My gratitude buddy and I have been emailing 3 gratitudes daily this entire year. I’ve never met my gratitude buddy, never heard her voice, do not know her history or stories but by the third week of January I’d completely fallen in love with her. Note to self: Gratitude is very attractive. Something about sharing and trusting a stranger in this process is so provocative. I tell her gratitudes I would not share with anyone else, making the process both poignant and sincere. Each morning as I wake, I am thinking of my gratitudes to email. Often as I fall asleep, I’m ticking off the list of gratefuls for the morning practice. This gratitude is in the details. Gratitude is becoming my prayer, my devotion. During one particularly difficult moment this year (crying, actually sobbing in public :/ the kind of scene one always hopes is way, way behind them) I centered myself by conjuring my gratitude buddy in my mind and naming my gratefuls aloud to her until I felt even and whole.
As a family, we practiced the daily gratitudes during dinner time of our 2 week family vacation. This practice always changed the tenor of not enough time and annoying siblings to a brief interlude of “we are so very lucky.”
Naturally a thanks note (with plenty of space up top for customizing) was part of the original “get love. give love” love note pad. The note is the perfect prompt and opportunity to get the gratitude juices flowing…not so overwhelming as an entire blank page or new journal. Experiencing others thanks is now a favorite part of any live love note writing event. Look at this abundance!
I’m so inspired by this collection of notes, I created a….15 notes and a “get love. give love.” pencil to get your gratitude practice started pronto. Add a 15 pencil set at check out and you have individual place settings for your next dinner, Thanksgiving, celebration or team building event. Can you imagine the love at that party?
In love and so much gratitude.