This is Life, Based on a True Story  

The Gratitude Project

When I was a 20-year-old in college, I lived in a downtown Edmonton apartment with a roommate.

While I was doing my practicum, I wasn’t able to work enough hours to cover my rent, utilities and food because my practicum required me to “work” (a.k.a.: volunteer) full-time hours to graduate.

I only worked a couple evenings a week and weekends. But since I didn’t have enough money to cover my basic necessities, every month I fell more behind in financial obligations.

One morning, I was leaving my apartment, stressed over my finances and had a teary moment in the elevator going down to my car.

Someone got in the elevator with me and I was so embarrassed by having a red-eyed, “cry-face.”  I tried to hide myself from this person’s gaze, to no avail.

He asked me if I was OK.

I said I was, happy when the elevator finally arrived at my — and as it turned out — his parkade exit.

As I walked to my car, I realized, my elevator buddy was following me. As it turned out, we shared neighbouring parking stalls. He looked at me as I was getting into my car and said some words that meant nothing to me at that time – that I just have to trust it will be OK, and it will be.

I never thought about that moment or him till a couple weeks later when I went to the apartment’s office to submit my half of my rent (that’s how we did it “back then”). The lady taking payments said my rent and parking had been paid for the month.

I was shocked. Was she sure? Who paid it?  She was able to tell me nothing more other than I just had to trust it would be OK.

And that’s when I knew. It was him. My elevator buddy. I never met him or ran into him again. And his car was no longer in the parkade next to mine.

That single, secret act of kindness made one of the biggest impacts on my life on me and is one I remember to this day.

Which brings me to this column …

I was so excited to write this column for so many reasons. Here’s why …

A few weeks ago, I said to my editor of this column I wasn’t sure I’d be able to continue writing as a regular columnist as I was running out of ideas. I mean honestly, if there’s no crisis or dramatic teenager thing going on, I struggle for a topic.

My editor said he’d hate to see me give it up and suggested I write about other topics – as in, he’s not limiting me to be able to write about anything and everything.

That made it harder. I sometimes like having my “box” to write in because it reins me in. It forces me to control my out-of-control thoughts.

And then it came to me … I’ve been formulating a book idea for a while. Why not use this platform I’ve graciously been granted to help achieve that goal?

And this is how my next life chapter begins.

I have a few ideas for books I plan to write over the next decade or so. But I’m going to start with the idea that not only energizes me, but is also one I try to emulate in my daily life.

I’m a firm believer in the “pay it forward” action and the necessity to be kind to one another. Media love to capitalize on the bad and terrible; and its oh-so-easy to get caught up in that cycle.

We can all be vicious keyboard warriors on social media and other websites — happily typing and tearing apart one another over a mere opinion, protected by the cocoon of a username and anonymity only the internet can offer.

We need less of that. We need is to be reminded of how much goodness goes on all around us daily, whether someone is there to catch it on camera or not.

We need to be reminded that an act of kindness can change one person’s life – even when it’s not posted on Facebook.

And this is where my idea originated.

My first book will be about gratitude and kindness – and how we receive it and give it.

If you’ve ever been witness to, participated in or started any sort of act of kindness, pay-it-forward, gratitude moment, I want to hear about it!

In the beginning, I was going to focus on just Okanagan gratitudes. Then I decided to expand it to B.C., but then realized it’s not something I’d want to limit to a region. Although, I plan to have a special focus on our community because there’s so much good that goes on right here in our valley.

If I’m being totally honest, I fear I might not have enough material to move past a couple of chapters. But the optimist in me thinks I’ll have enough to do a whole series.

I went to a workshop not long ago about living my brave life. This was the first time I’d spoken publicly to people who weren’t my best friends about this crazy book idea of mine.

Speaking it out loud to people who didn’t know me has now made me accountable to myself — and a roomful of strangers — to follow through.

And so now, I have to do this. Am I scared? Hell, yeah. But if I don’t do this, my regret will be bigger than my fear — even if this idea is a total fail.

So, how can you help if you’re so inclined?

I need you to send me any acts of kindness, pay-it-forward moments or gratitudes you’ve either witnessed, started, know of or participated in.

I’m also open to receiving drawings your kids have done that captures kindness (scan and send as a jpeg).

I also need you to share this as much as you can … put the power of social media to use in a good way. If you have a special Okanagan connection to the story, please be sure to include that as well.

Send your story to: [email protected]. Include your contact info so I can clarify or verify info if needed. 

My ultimate plan is that this will be published as a coffee table book and sold, with a portion of the proceeds going to a local charity or charities.

Now for the boring part … your full name, email or other identifying info won’t be published.

I would like to print first names only of people who agree, and if not, it can be anonymous, but I still need contact info for any clarification.

The most valuable thing I learned while doing my college practicum had nothing to do with my course of study … but rather how one small token of kindness can make a lifetime of difference. It did for me ...

Thanks for your contributions and sharing … and as always, thanks for reading.


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About the Author

Tanya Gunderson has been writing for the heck of it for many years. Her inspiration comes from her kids, their friends and the craziness of life. She takes great pleasure in exposing life for what it really is and has an open-book approach to her writing.

Her formal education and background include a blink-and-you miss-it stint in the radio and television industry, but it gave her an opportunity to write professionally on a few different occasions.

Email: [email protected]



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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