Jo-Anne Guimond: The Gratitude Project

Jo-Anne Guimond is daring to be grateful. She began by looking for a creative project for the year 2013. Two years ago, she embarked on a 365 photo project, taking a photo a day all year. She enjoyed the challenge, the discipline and the daily creative opportunity the project presented.

“We moved to Hintonburg and where we’re living is lovely beyond our expectations,” says Guimond, who began what’s she’s named The Gratitude Project (daretobegrateful.blogspot.ca) recently because she found herself “swimming in gratitude” and wondered if other people felt similarly grateful for their lives and, if so, how they might express that gratitude.

Part of the impetus for The Gratitude Project came from a carefully planned and long awaited Toronto to Vancouver train trip Guimond has is currently taking. A natural introvert, the blogger thought that wearing her “what are you grateful for?” t-shirt, to engage other passengers and to collect their stories en route would add another layer of meaning and connection to her journey.

“I started chatting with trusted creative advisors about this social engagement experiment and The Gratitude Project was born,” says Guimond who also plans to drop off stamped, self-addressed post cards at stops along the route and is looking forward to seeing what comes back to her.

“The time frame is 2013. At the end of the year I won’t force it to end or continue, I’ll see how it goes,” she says, noting that expanding the blog to Facebook and Twitter is enabling her to become more proficient at those tools.

To launch her project, Guimond set up a table at ArtsPark last month and offered visitors the opportunity to share what their gratitude. “People could either write down something they were generally grateful for or choose from a specific question,” says Guimond who was delighted with how receptive folks were when she took the project “out of cyberspace and into the community.”

“One of the most moving moments was when a woman answered the question, ‘Which person who you haven’t met are you most grateful for?’ by saying, ‘My daughter’s birth mother.’”

Guimond framed the question differently for kids, asking them, “What are you happy about?” One of the sweetest responses from the under ten set was, “I’m happy that my mom loves me…how do you spell mom?”

ArtsPark presented Guimond with a chance to see The Gratitude Project through the eyes of the community. “One person asked me if I’d like to come and give a workshop at her school, other people thought I should make a gratitude wall downtown during rush hour. It was great to see people getting involved in the project,” says Guimond who hopes people will be inspired to include their own gratitude wall at gatherings like weddings, street parties, funerals and graduations.

During the lead up to her big train journey, VIA Rail’s labour disruptions have offered Guimond an opportunity to really look at her situation through what she calls “the lens of gratitude.” When she wasn’t sure if she’d have to cancel her trip, fly to Vancouver, or figure something else out, thinking about gratitude allowed Guimond to appreciate keeping up to date with VIA through social media and to appreciate that labour talks were continuing.

When she returns from her train journey, Guimond will look into a fundraiser to leverage The Gratitude Project to give back to Parkdale Food Centre and to High-Jinx, an organization that works with people who are homeless.

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