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Creating Connections Through Gratitude

Sacramento Tweed Ride 53

I have come to the conclusion that to be complacent is to be ineffective and to be tolerant of obvious error or injustice is unforgivable. Perhaps there is something amiss with the genes of Homo sapiens that does not innately command us to protect our home, Earth, as we instinctively protect ourselves.

~Ansel Adams: An Autobiography

Since gratitude is a key component to happiness and living a simple lifestyle, I’d encourage all of you to spend a few hours a week on volunteer project. Start creating connections through gratitude.

The following are some examples:

  • Volunteer at a local homeless shelter.
  • Donate your professional skills to a non-profit in need.
  • Get involved with bike advocacy.
  • Become a big brother or sister.
  • Help your family, friends or acquaintances with a project.

The list of projects is endless, but it’s important to get started somewhere.

Micro-Action: Devote 2 hours per week to a gratitude project.

I love blogging and I truly value the connections I’ve made through RowdyKittens and online social networks. I also want to balance this by giving back in my local community through volunteering. It’s another one way to express gratitude and create connections.

I was incredibly happy to see so many thoughtful comments on my last post about gratitude. Reading your comments reminded me of the Mindfulness Project, which discusses ways we can be mindful and grateful through our everyday actions. I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately, especially since I’ve been working on my e-book, Simply Car-Free. My close friends (and Logan) have been incredibly helpful.

To take advantage of this feeling of reciprocity, I decided to spend 4 to 8 hours a week on gratitude projects. Earlier this week, I devoted my time to working on a few websites for family members. It felt wonderful to give back to my family, especially after all of their help with the move.

I also decided to get involved with Living Yoga. It’s a “non-profit outreach program teaching yoga as a tool for personal change in prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, transitional facilities, and to populations who would otherwise not have access to it.”

I’m really excited to start volunteering with this organization and meet other members of the Portland community.

How are you going to give gratitude?

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Alejandro Reyes February 19, 2010, 7:16 am

    I like the idea to start gratitude projects. I like to give my work for free to local charities, usually I design their websites for free and give them regular maintenance.

    Working for free for a good cause actually has a huge pay that only a few seem to realize, it is a feeling of good and accomplishment, that is far more substantial than a pay check. I’m not saying we should always work for free, but sometimes it is the right thing to do.

    • Tammy February 19, 2010, 6:25 pm

      @Alejandro and Sharrod – Awesome! Volunteering such a good way to give back and make the world a better place.

  • Lisa February 19, 2010, 10:03 am

    Committing to gratitude projects sounds like a great idea. I’ve always volunteered my time and energies but had never considered this as a gratitude project. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I’ve heard this phrase. (Guess I lead a sheltered life!) For the past dozen years or so, I’ve written a page each morning in my “gratitude journal”….of things that I am grateful for. This one little thing has had life altering effects for me. As for the gratitude projects (aka volunteering), Bob and I packed about 600 bags of grocery commodities yesterday and helped to distribute them to the 300 families who needed help. Now, we’re sore but happy to have been able to make a difference for our community.

    • Tammy February 19, 2010, 6:23 pm

      @Lisa – I doubt you’re lead a sheltered life. πŸ™‚ It’s awesome that you write in a gratitude journal. That is very very cool and a good idea.

      Thanks for reading and sharing what you’re been up to in your community. It’s great that you were able to help so many needy families.

  • Sharrod February 19, 2010, 3:52 pm

    I actually work for Big Brothers Big Sisters and volunteering is a great way to build a long lasting connection. Working with a child has tremendous upside, and “Good” Bigs make an impact that no one could quantify.

  • Chris O'Byrne February 19, 2010, 9:34 pm

    LOVE this post! I do a lot of free websites and hosting and it always feels so good.

  • Abhishek February 20, 2010, 4:47 am

    I like the idea of working on projects that have an outcome which benefits the community. Gaining happiness from it may have to do with being raised in a pro-altruistic religious environment. I fail to understand how gratitude is the key component of living a simple lifestyle.

    • Tammy February 20, 2010, 8:56 am

      @Abhishek I believe gratitude is a key part of simple living. I think it’s easy to get caught up in consumer culture, work or other life issues and neglect the importance of community. Civic involvement has been declining in the U.S. for the last few decades and I think that’s very very sad. For me, the more fundamental issue is that small living and/or simple living requires helping and depending on your community. I think gratitude facilitates that kind of relationship.

      I guess I should have made that more clear in the post. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for reading the blog.

  • Voluntary Simplicity February 20, 2010, 7:24 am

    Wow, Tammy, another wonderful post. I am going to give gratitude by starting with the micro-action you suggest above. I am going to start devoting 2 hours a week specifically to a gratitude project.

    Currently, I do some part-time work at a non-profit for foster youth and I can honestly say that every day I work there I leave with a greater sense of what it means to be human and how powerful resiliency can really be.

    Keep writing. And once I get my blog back up and running on a regular basis I am going to take you up on that offer to write a guest post.

  • Abhishek February 20, 2010, 11:45 am

    Tammy,

    I heard you guys talk about social involvement on the Peak Moment TV interview. Simple living facilitates time and attention to community projects that benefit not only yourself but a large group of people. I failed to make the connection and still do on why small or simple living requires dependency on community. Maybe we should discuss this offline.

    • Tammy February 21, 2010, 5:35 pm

      @Abhishek – I agree with Chris. This is a great discussion and I don’t think we should take it “offline.” I feel like I’ve tried to explain why I think small living facilitates community connections and community dependence. But I guess I’m not explaining myself well?

      Maybe some other folks can leave a comment and express their opinion? πŸ™‚

  • Chris O'Byrne February 21, 2010, 10:55 am

    Don’t take this conversation offline, this is a good discussion!

  • puerhan February 21, 2010, 10:58 am

    I agree gratitude is vital. Have you read this wonderful article http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/half_full/?p=2283 over on Raising Happiness?

    • Tammy February 21, 2010, 5:31 pm

      @puerhan – thanks for sharing the article. It was really good. I’ll include it in my Simple Living News Update in March. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for reading the blog.

  • Chris O'Byrne February 21, 2010, 5:58 pm

    I think that on a very literal and technical sense that small living does not require either gratitude or a sense of community. I say this because I can imagine a grumpy hermit that lives completely alone and is grateful for nothing. But looking at it realistically, gratitude and community is pretty darn important to happiness in any situation. To me, small living thins the veil of illusion that we are separate beings living separate lives. When we live in a large house, surrounded by our toys and lawns and barely even know our neighbors, it’s pretty easy to pretend that we are separate and alone. You can still maintain this delusion if you live in a small house, but it’s not as easy. When I live in my van or tiny Airstream, I can hear and see the world around me, almost as if the thin walls do not exist. And anyone that has stayed in a tent in a public campground knows firsthand that it is almost impossible to ignore those around you. I know for a fact that my sense of community and gratitude for that community is much stronger when I live in a small dwelling.

  • Abhishek February 21, 2010, 6:25 pm

    Tammy,

    I try to live in a simple manner and I never felt the need to depend on others. Hence, I never felt the need to help others in anticipation of future assistance. Maybe ‘help’ and ‘assistance’ are not the appropriate words. For example, I don’t own a car and am not within a bicycling distance to a pet store. My friends help me with a trip to the dog food store once a month. They do that because I am their friend and I don’t think they are asking for anything in return. I do compensate by either cooking (somewhat) delicious indian food for them or by just providing plain emotional support. If my friends refuse to help me, I can undertake the ten mile trip to the pet store to pick up the 40 lb bag of dog food. I have the bicycle for it but the city does not have the infrastructure to make that commute a good quality one.

    I advocate for better bicycling infrastructure with the City. I want to bicycle more since bicycles are cleaner, financially sensible and healthier modes of transportation. I urge the City to give more consideration to cyclists. One of my methods of advocacy is to own and operate a free bike valet service at the weekly Arts Market here. It provides people an option of travel to a place of business that does not involve an internal combustion engine. They get to park their bicycles in the Market, not in a parking lot outside it. My fellow bicycle advocate and I operated that free service all year 2009. We will do it all year 2010 too.

    I guess my motives are slightly selfish. The results, however promote more people to embrace a simpler mode of transportation that is cleaner and healthier.

    I see a lot of people providing gratitude and social service because it brings happiness to them. That is selfish too. Not many work towards the root cause of social problems. They work on the effects. It is easier to do so. Solving a drug problem or an economic problem is difficult. Helping people already affected is easier. Then there is the problem of the recipients of support getting complacent. The homeless in my city are very well fed. They probably do not get their bi-annual dental check up like I do but none of them appear to be starving. This is in stark contrast to the homeless in other countries. I grew up in Bombay and watched homeless on the streets begging for alms, similar to what you may have seen on Slumdog Millionaire, but worse. They get complacent with the help they receive. I have experienced it personally. Therefore, social service not always helps to pull the underprivileged out of misery. It sometimes elongates their stay in it.

    I didn’t mean this comment to be an anti-altruistic retort. I have felt this way about social involvement for a while. This is the reason I volunteered at a homeless dog shelter and not at a soup kitchen. Dogs cant fend for themselves. People can. I did read Fountainhead recently which has even stronger anti-altruistic views. Reading that book sent me into a moral tailspin which I am trying to untangle. I am hoping a discussion like this will help.

  • Chris O'Byrne February 21, 2010, 6:50 pm

    Abhishek, all of Ayn Rand’s work sent me into a moral tailspin and I have yet to recover. πŸ™‚

    Also, is there ever such a thing as a completely selfless act? Until we have no self, no act can be selfless.

    You say that people can fend for themselves and I agree, but many people do not know how. They are often stuck because of ignorance. This is exactly what is meant in the saying about teaching a person to fish.

    “If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?” β€”Thomas Jefferson

  • Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell February 22, 2010, 5:44 am

    Tammy, I also think gratitude plays a big part in manifesting things in your own life. That’s not to say you should do something to have something come back to you, but I don’t believe we can evolve in any way in our lives without first being grateful for what we already have and giving back. I’m lucky in that I got 2 paying gigs this year writing about grassroots animal rescues and the pets and people who work with them and adopt them. That’s my passion. I’m being paid for those things, but it is, in a way giving back through my writing. I’m also developing a volunteer program where I go into the nursing homes in my area and either help the residents write their life stories, or I record them for them if they can’t do it themselves. I think these stories will be great for their families. I know I appreciated my mother doing this for me before she passed. Now I will always have her stories and can pass them to my great nieces and nephews. I hope to start that program this spring.

  • SimplyJo March 1, 2010, 2:58 pm

    I had noted in my ‘ideas book’ over the weekend to do ‘Gifts of time’. I have decided to give away my consultancy services to not for profits also. Gratitude is incredibly important and increasingly missing in many peoples lives. Aside from gratitude I also believe in the boomerang theory of what you give you get – it may not be tomorrow but one day it will come back and smack you in the chops full force – good or bad! I’d rather mine be a positive experience! Loving the blog

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