Thanksgiving – Gratitude

Saying thank you is easy and free.

This Thanksgiving I am sending someone I love a handwritten thank-you note and doing something that you may find silly (or maybe not).

In years past, I used to write Thanksgiving posts about topics more easily tied to the environment like consumerism and green actions that you and I can do. Then there was the year my family saved me from writing about food waste.

Nowadays at Thanksgiving, I find myself pondering the interconnectedness of humans and the rest of nature or how I can put forth my kindest self every day. That is the person that I, you, and everyone else needs to bring to the table if we are to heal ourselves and Earth, the place we all call home.

This year gratitude is on my mind.

I believe everyone appreciates being appreciated. I know I do. Showing gratitude by saying “Thank you.” is easy and free. Yet, sometimes in our society, it seems like we are all so busy, rushed, and frazzled that we forget who and what we have to be grateful for or to thank the people in our lives.

Maybe all we need to get back on track is a friendly reminder and a little practice.

This year for my Thanksgiving post I knew I wanted to write about gratitude and to encourage readers to take a specific gratitude-related action. But what?

Then a few weeks ago, I was reading Elizabeth Kubey’s “Kids’ Corner” column in the fall issue of Flora, a quarterly magazine published by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) of which I am a member. Even though my kids are grown, I always enjoy reading Elizabeth’s column. It is filled with educational and fun activities and she has a delightful kid-friendly writing style.

Flora-V3N1-Kids-Corner_Letter_Elizabeth-Kubey-LR-300x388

The “Kids’ Corner” fall column had several activities for kids to learn about chlorophyll and photosynthesis. The item that caught my eye was entitled Thank-you plants! It involved asking kids to write several thank-you notes. One thanking a native plant, one as if they were a native plant thanking a part of the ecosystem, and perhaps one to a family member. Photo —Elizabeth Kubey/CNPS.

I instantly thought, “That’s it. I want to share this idea in my Thanksgiving post.”

Since it was Elizabeth’s idea, I contacted her to thank her and ask her permission to share her idea and to use the thank-you note. She agreed.

I Used to Write Thank-You Notes

One of the many things that my mother taught me as a kid was how to write a handwritten thank-you note. My brother and sister learned, too. We were expected to write thank-you notes when someone had given us a gift even if we had thanked the gift giver in person. I do not remember if there was any wheedling involved, but she probably had to remind us to write them, at least sometimes.

I carried the thank-you note habit into adulthood writing thank-you notes for birthday, wedding, baby, and holiday gifts and occasionally for another reason like thanking an interviewer after a job interview.

There was always a box or two of thank-you note cards in a desk drawer at home.

Once, when I was preparing to leave a company that I had worked with for a long time, I wrote a thank-you note to every employee. That was over 300 thank-you notes.

Now, I have mostly fallen out of the habit of writing thank-you notes. The demise of my thank-you note writing may have coincided with the decision my spouse and I made in 2013 to stop the practice of obligatory gift-giving and receiving as part of our effort to live more lightly on the planet.

And yet, there are many, many people and things to be thankful for that do not involve exchanging gifts. Can my lapsed thank-you note habit be resuscitated and reimagined? I think it can.

Thank-You Note for a Person

To me, Thanksgiving seems like an ideal time to write a handwritten thank-you note.

My Thanksgiving Thank-You Note Card and Vase with Artificial Fall Flowers
I wrote my Thanksgiving thank-you note inside this card.

I hope you will join me in writing a thank-you note sometime during this week to a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker, or anyone for that matter thanking them for, well, anything.

You and everyone else may have a lot going on this week such as preparing to host a Thanksgiving feast at your home, getting ready to travel, or cramming five days of work into three days. Some of you may be steeling yourself for working on Black Friday.

So, let’s keep it simple and agree that we will not agonize over writing a thank-you note. We will write from our hearts without worrying about spelling, grammar, and punctuation (at least not too much).

If you do not have a box of thank-you note cards stuck in the back of a drawer, no worries. Any kind of card will do and you can easily pick one up at almost any store including a grocery market.

The thank-you note that I wrote is winging its way to my mother; however, she will probably not have received it before reading this post.

Thank-You Note for a Plant or Animal

Now for the silly part that I mentioned earlier.

I am an enthusiastic native plant novice who enjoys growing native plants from seeds and giving native plants a place in our yard.

The first native plant I ever grew from a seed was a California Buckwheat which I named Becky. I am one of those people who anthropomorphize plants and animals. It helps me appreciate and connect with other parts of nature.

Even though Elizabeth’s Thank-you plants! is not related to Thanksgiving, I do not think she will mind if you and I appropriate her format to thank a fellow member of nature.

My native plant thank-you note is for Becky. As you can see I kept it short and sweet. Protected by a plastic bag it is mounted on a bamboo stick left from our Monterey pine seedling growing project. I placed it in the yard with Becky. This will remind me to thank the plant every time I pass by.

If you would like to join me in this endeavor, I feel certain there is a plant or animal living near you that would love to receive a thank-you note.

For good measure on Thanksgiving, I think I will go hug a few trees.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Featured Image at Top: Thanksgiving still life with thank-you note card – Photo credit iStock/CatLane.

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Coastal Cleanup Day – Why it Matters

If not you, who?

Volunteering to pick up trash during Coastal Cleanup Day will give you a sense of accomplishment and perhaps motivate you to take further action.

Coastal Cleanup Day is coming up next week on Saturday, September 21. Millions of people will be joined together by a common mission—picking up trash—making their small part of the world cleaner, safer, and more beautiful for themselves and everyone else. You could be one of them.

This worldwide day of action will be taking place on thousands of miles of coastline as well as the banks of creeks, streams, and lakes, and even at a few parks. Chances are you can find an opportunity to participate in your own community or nearby.

Taking part in Coastal Cleanup Day is an ideal activity for first-time volunteers because generally all you need to do is slather on sunscreen, fill up your reusable water bottle, and show up. Many, if not most sites, will provide equipment like grabbers and buckets. Then after picking up trash for a few hours, you are free to hang out on your local beach, hike along a cherished stream, or take pleasure in a lakeside picnic lunch.

Bring your kids or grandkids along to this family-friendly event giving them a chance to help do something worthwhile, engage in some citizen science, and have fun with you outdoors.

During Coastal Cleanup Day, you will be acting as a citizen scientist recording the type of trash you are picking up or sorting and categorizing it afterward. This data is useful for understanding the volume and makeup of trash so that we can collectively work on solutions to reduce and hopefully eliminate trashing our oceans and waterways.

Consume consume that’s all we do
We take and take and don’t regret
We need to know what’s best at end
Our oceans are at risk today
Because of all the things we toss away.

Robert Becerra, Grade 1, La Puente (2017 California Coastal Commission Student Art & Poetry Contest)

Why Should You Pick Up Other People’s Trash?

Humans seem to be the only inhabitants on Earth who litter, meaning that we produce waste that is not used by another organism for food, habitat, or other purposes and that we leave it lying about wherever we go.

Of course, you and I do not litter. It is the other people who do. So, why should you and I pick up other people’s trash?

Well, er, because instead of just being ticked off about litter we can empower ourselves to do something about it. I cannot think of any downside to there being less trash on beaches, along creeks, or in the oceans.

Perhaps you are thinking “Well, duh, I don’t need you to tell me that I can pick up litter if I want to.” Maybe not, but it is possible that you see litter without really seeing it or recognizing that you can do something about it.

That is how it was for me before participating in Coastal Cleanup Day in 2017.

Spending several hours with my spouse picking up and collecting trash on a beach where we live on the Central California Coast left an impression on me. If you are interested, you can read about it the post entitled Coastal Cleanup Day – Picking up Litter is Empowering.

Now, I see litter as something I can positively impact through my own choices and by picking up litter and throwing it in a recycle bin or trash can.

On the Way to the Post Office

Over the Labor Day weekend, our small town held its annual 3-day Pinedorado festival.

That Sunday, at the Pinedorado, my spouse and I bought some raffle tickets, savored slices of olallieberry pie (mine had vanilla ice cream on top), and purchased a potted plant from the garden club. Locals and visitors alike seemed to be enjoying the balmy weather, games, music, food, and the car show.

4 Clusters of Balloons Picked Up as Litter

A few days later, I encountered remains of the weekend as I was walking from my house to the post office. Beneath a bush, I spotted a couple of deflated balloons tied together with a ribbon. They had been part of colorful columns marking the Saturday parade route, but apparently, some of them had escaped the cleanup crew.

I picked them up and resumed my walk carrying them in my free hand. Within a span of a few minutes, I discovered and picked up three more balloon clusters. When I reached the downtown area, I put the balloons in the first trash can I came across.

Did anyone see me picking up these balloons, carrying them down the street, and then putting them in the trash can? Maybe or maybe not. It does not matter. What matters is that there are fewer balloons floating around town that could have been ingested by a toddler, a pet, or the local wildlife.

You may be scoffing or rolling your eyes thinking “She picked up a few pieces of litter. Big deal.” The thing is you could do it, too. Imagine if everyone did. Picking up other people’s trash shows that you care about where you live, work, or visit.

Sign Up for Coastal Cleanup Day in Your Community

Volunteers at ECOSLO Coastal Cleanup Day in Morro Bay, CA
ECOSLO Coastal Cleanup Day volunteers in Morro Bay, CA on September 17, 2011 – photo credit Michael L. Baird.

Where I live in San Luis Obispo County, CA, a local nonprofit called ECOSLO organizes and runs our cleanup days. This year we are having a Creeks to Coast Cleanup Day with events taking place at beaches, creeks, and lakes across the county.

My spouse and I volunteered to pick up trash along the banks of Santa Margarita Lake. After we finish our stint as volunteer trash collectors, we will enjoy the rest of the afternoon paddling our kayaks around the lake. Community service mixed with fun. What could be better?

To find an event near where you live type “Coastal Cleanup Day” and the name of your town into your Internet web browser, sign up for a location that interests you, and then show up the day of the event.

No beach, creek, or lake to clean up where you live? No worries pick a street in your neighborhood, a parking lot at work, or a local school playground and pick up trash there.

You may be pleasantly surprised by how rewarding picking up trash can be.

Featured Image at Top: a Fish sculpture made with pieces of trash found on a beach – photo credit iStock/SolStock.

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