From the living room window of their Monterey Avenue home, the Cunliffe family can see faces.
Rain-soaked faces, cold faces, scrunched up faces, sideways faces, curious faces and glowing-in-the-dark faces.
They’re all stopping by to see the latest sentiment posted on the family’s 10-foot-tall Gratitude Tree.
Painted red, green and white, and adorned with messages (each dangling on a wooden block), it’s an advent calendar of goodwill. Each day the family of Michael and Trisha, and their three boysm Lucas (17), Jacob (13) and Joshua (13), add a positive message, action, or affirmation.
|The Gratitude Tree.|
The ripple effect has overwhelmed the family with response coming from across the country.
“We started out by sitting around the table as a family each night to create one for the next day,” said dad Michael Cunliffe. “We wanted them to be something that didn’t cost money. When we sit down, we will discuss if there was anything out of the norm that day. … We can use that to [inspire] one.”
One idea was to post a pay-it-forward action, such as buying the next person’s coffee in line, but it wasn’t the right fit.
Instead, Day 1 reads “Compliment a stranger.” Day 16 reads, “If COVID safe, hold a door for someone.”
They’re all just ideas to get people thinking about how we can maintain our community while being physically apart, Cunliffe said.
Every five days the messages are an affirmation done on a silver block (blocks are otherwise the natural wood colour).
Day 10 reads, “I’m grateful for all that I have.”
“It’s really amazing the feedback I’m getting. Not for us, but for the community that’s been pulled together online and in person. And seeing people out here,” Cunliffe said.
Day 13 of the Gratitude Tree— Michael Cunliffe (@m2cunliffe) December 13, 2020
“Ask someone ‘How are you?’ and listen” pic.twitter.com/Ppz6cdNEkw
The tree itself is a series of boards hammered together and painted. Back in November, Cunliffe was on the cusp of driving to the lumber store to buy wood when his wife called him. She had spotted free palettes.
Cunliffe’s boys drilled the holes for the lights.
The Gratitude Tree gets plenty of foot traffic as it is across from Monterey middle school and next to a pathway that connects Monterey to Hampshire Road. But it’s also had an online following.
Beware, the actions can require some reflection and effort. Not everyone is comfortable reminding people they love them or, able to easily pass along a compliment.
“There’s lots of introverts in this world. If you want to pass on a compliment, it doesn’t have to be in a physical, one on one interaction. Send a message,” Cunliffe said. “And no, we don’t always say to people we love them. For some reason it’s a hard thing for people to say.”
The Gratitude Tree:
Day 1: Compliment a stranger. Day 2: Phone, text or write someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Day 3: Be fully present during conversations. Day 4: Use the words Thank You as much as you can today. Day 5: A positive affirmation, “I choose to be happy and to love myself today.” Day 6: Let someone go ahead of you in line. Day 7: Provide encouragement to someone. Day 8: If you can ~ Donate to a food bank. Day 9: Tell 3 people why you appreciate them. Day 10 (an affirmation): I am grateful for all that I have. Day 11: Hide a positive note for someone to find. Day 12: Tell someone’s boss they have a great employee. Day 13: Ask someone ‘How are you?’ and listen. Day 14: Leave a thank you card for your mail carrier. Day 15: “I choose to make today a great day.” Day 16: If COVID safe - Hold a door for someone. Day 17: Pick up some garbage and dispose of it properly. Day 18: Call a family member and say ‘I love you.’ Day 19: Be Patient. Day 20 (affirmation): “I am full of positive loving energy.” Day 21: See the goodness in others. Day 22: Keep things in perspective.