It was time to step out of cyberspace once again, and back into the community.
They loved *the gratitude project* at ArtsPark.
They loved *the gratitude project* at Your Story Retreat.
But how would it be received by people just going about their business, on a busy street, in the middle of a summer work day? Hence the experimentation component of this “public engagement experiment”!
On Monday, August 19th, the lovely Chrisann joined me as we set up a pop-up gratitude project on Sparks Street, a busy pedestrian street in downtown Ottawa. We set up during lunch hour, when hundreds of public servants and tourists mill about for reasons known only to them. Admittedly, I was nervous. How would people react to *the gratitude project*? Would I be able to just put myself out there, and detach from the outcome? Well, there was only one way to find out…
In our 90 minutes on Sparks Street, we collected close to 30 expressions of gratitude for our “gratitude wall” (a re-purposed garden trellis)! Several people came to us without prompting, drawn by the visual expression of our key question: what are you grateful for? Others stopped when invited: hi there – would you like to participate in the gratitude project? Either out of politeness or out of genuine curiosity, they took a few moments to hear about the project and participate. However the majority of people just walked on by. I would even say some people executed what appeared to be highly-trained, tactical avoidance manoeuvres! It became clear that, if you are standing on the street with a clipboard over lunch hour and attempting to make eye contact, it is assumed you want money. In some instances, they would direct a quick “no-thank-you” our way, while with others, we simply didn’t exist. If-I-don’t-look-at-you; you-are-not-there. Our friendly greeting was met with stone-cold silence. Very interesting! (This is an experiment, remember?! J)
One of my favourite moments was the gentleman who quickly said “no thanks” as he walked by, but who then turned around and said: “actually yes, I would like to participate. tell me more about this…”. I loved that! It showed me that, even though people kept on walking, they were probably thinking about it. I mean, how can you read the question what are you grateful for? and not even think about a response?? You may not share it, or barely even admit it to yourself, but chances are good that you. are. thinking. about. it.
Another wonderful outcome of setting up in this environment was the potential for reaching tourists. A couple of the items posted were in languages other than English or French – gratitude goes beyond language! And, as in the other locations, wonderful conversations were had. Those who get it, really get it. So affirming!
I’m glad we did this… and that I was able to detach personally and really look at this as an experiment. Society as a giant laboratory. If ever YOU are interested in trying this out in your community, get in touch by leaving a comment here, or via our Facebook page. I can share the logo and the list of questions I use to engage people. Or, you can do your own thing and let me know how it goes!
Wherever gratitude goes, gratitude grows.
this. from a beautiful young japanese woman who was worried about her english.
looks pretty perfect to me.
this. from a young woman who picked the question: "what person you've never met are you most grateful for?" (i loved her sense of humour)
this. just a sampling of the many who expressed gratitude for family.
it was certainly the theme of the day.