What does it mean to be thankful? What does it take to say “thank you?” Is gratitude a natural human expression? These are questions that Roberta Little is currently reflecting on, after engaging the Thank You Project in Kennett Square these past three years.
As we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving and I look to the community to extend the stories that Bob George and I captured in The Story of Kennett, Roberta Little came to mind. She is the perfect person to interview to learn more about her Thank You Project and its effect on our community.
Roberta Little moved to Kennett Square with her husband in 2016 to live closer to her daughter and family. Roberta is an artist, who specializes in one of a kind, mixed media and 2-dimensional art, from jewelry to sculptures. She displays her work in art studios and it can be found in art shows around town and Lancaster, PA.
The story behind the Thank You Project started with family. While vacationing during the holidays, Roberta enlisted her grandchildren and their friends in a creative art project. It involved forming the words “Thank You” with found objects, food items, treasured pieces, then photographing them to create a video or slideshow of “thank you” photographs.
The effect of this memorable time led Roberta and her friend, Stella Scott from Mala Galleria at the time, to offer a similar experience in Kennett Square. Their motto: “Make gratitude “mushroom” in our community.”
Roberta and Stella went to work and created a variety of venues to spread the message. They challenged schools, businesses, non-profits and individuals to engage the same activity that her grandchildren had enjoyed and then post on the Thank You Facebook page. They had over 35 Kennett downtown businesses post their unique “thank you” in their town window and then be posted on Facebook.
As a follow-up, Roberta created a display using an old medicine cabinet positioned on a short step ladder to clip thank you messages. She brought it to the Kennett Area Senior Center, La Comunidad Hispana, The Kennett Library, and Mary Pat’s Provisions to invite the general public into the Thank You Project.
Roberta has worked passionately on this project and it is only recently that she is pausing to regroup and reflect on what she has learned about her approach to gratitude. She was hoping that presenting opportunities to create thankful expressions would grow gratitude.
“To be honest, this has been a hard sell. People don’t see the benefits from being grateful on the surface. They are not being rewarded immediately. Even the participants received ‘extra credit’ for their work on the thank-you project.”
Roberta announces that she is currently realizing that gratitude is an internal process that each person has to own. She may have shed the light on the value of gratitude to the Kennett community through the Thank You Project, but each person needs to come to seeing the power of gratitude themselves.
She actually has written her personal Gratitude Statement; “I take ownership of my gratitude. It belongs to me; my thank you, my expression; it is not about others growing or demonstrating their feelings. It is my Thank You Project journey to actively witness the power of living in gratitude. Gratitude works. I am thankful for big and small treasured gifts that I notice each day. These gifts are received by a warm open heart. I am uplifted in joyful celebration at being able to acknowledge what is special.”
Roberta provides an example to our community of how living in gratitude can multiply and help create a loving community. Even though she may question the success of the Thank You Project itself, it may just be starting, as more community members make it their own.
At the end of the interview, Roberta presented me with 10 note cards with photos from the Thank You Project. Roberta had actually walked the talk and lived her Thank You Project by creating a unique thank-you and photograph every day for an entire year.
Instead of selling these cards with some of the photos that she had taken, Roberta has decided to give them to certain folks in the community that she would like to personally thank for their contributions, so they can express thanks to whomever they choose. Don’t be surprised if you receive a hand-written note from a community member, who is thanking you for your contributions.
Needless to say, this heartfelt expression from Roberta evoked a deep gratitude in me and caused me to want to spontaneously pass it on! So, I am asking you, will you be an actor in helping pass it on and make gratitude “mushroom” in Kennett Square beyond Thanksgiving?