“If all at once we could hear every story ever told, the cacophonous song of whispers, sagas, songs, tears, and laughter would remind us that we are never alone, that we are — through stories — wholly connected to one another.”

A story shared is a thread that tethers us to one another, deepening our understanding and appreciation of the diversity of human experience. It’s an offering that invites us to the very edge of our individual selves and into the collective of the world. Packaged as poetry, personal narrative, song, and more, stories open windows into worlds beyond our own, and gift us new and different perspectives. If all at once we could hear every story ever told, the cacophonous song of whispers, sagas, songs, tears, and laughter would remind us that we are never alone, that we are — through stories — wholly connected to one another.

Over the years, so many of you have gifted us with your stories of how grateful living informs, shapes, and is manifested in your lives. You’ve sent us profoundly moving emails and letters, offered your poetry and personal journeys, shared how your organizational missions are rooted in gratitude, and described the ways gratefulness has been a guidepost in times of joy and a lifeline in times of grief. We’ve received each of these offerings as the sacred gift that it is — the gift of your voice telling your story. Now, for the first time, we’re excited and deeply honored to be launching a project that lifts up your stories through video. To see your faces and hear your voices — this is yet another rich gift.

In the summer of 2020, while all of us around the globe were isolated in some way from those we love, award-winning photographer and filmmaker Doug Menuez found a way for us to gather safely outdoors to listen closely to the stories of seven individuals for whom grateful living is a way of life. For three days, Doug’s team set up an outdoor film set, and our executive director Kristi Nelson settled into long conversations with the participants in this project. The result of Doug’s beautiful work is the launch of our new series: Grateful Voices.

The series begins with the voices of our first seven participants: James, Marta, Noah, Claire, Vishal, Wendy, Adetola. To each of them, we offer our deepest gratitude for their willingness to connect with us during the pandemic and for the extraordinary generosity of entrusting us with their stories. Every two weeks over the coming months, we’ll share one of their individual videos. As this project takes flight, we will be inviting others in the global community of grateful living to share stories of what it means to them to live gratefully in the world. We can’t wait to lean in and listen closely.

Heartfelt gratitude and awe for Doug Menuez and his team, including Executive Producer Pear Urushima, Director of Photography Luke Carquillat and Sound Technician/Gaffer Dino Davaros.

To watch the films in this series, visit Grateful Voices.

Video Transcript

Yeah, I think that one of the most difficult aspects of coming to this country was that there was no welcome party. There wasn’t a road in. And so a lot of what you do as an immigrant is really the learning. And you become an observer, and maybe even just part of the wallpaper, so to speak. You don’t exist, you don’t have a voice. And part of the becoming an American means to learn the way. Surviving a war, civil distress, being held by shotgun, crossing borders, they’re not easy experiences to deal with. But in the meantime, you are grateful to be alive. And so your life becomes even more meaningful, every moment that you become freer, so to speak.

When I go through a challenging situation, I can lean into gratefulness to help me shift my mood, look at options differently. There are times that there may be challenges with the relationship at work. And if I think, “Wow, I’m lucky to be working. I’m lucky to have this opportunity to do the work I love.” It shifts that, oh, if this little thing isn’t working, that’s okay, because there’s a bigger picture here. And I can lean into gratefulness. It’s like a friend that I have sitting next to me. If I look over, it’ll always be there.

I come to my place of gratefulness because I understand pain and loss. So it’s in my understanding pain that I know that, oh my God, things can get better. Or because of the pain and what is possible, that my being in peace right now, that it doesn’t have to be like this. That’s what helps me to hold on to my gratefulness.

So when I am being grateful, and I’m able to integrate this experience of gratitude in my life, it really impacts the world around me in the way that I interact with others. So in my view, gratitude, and empathy, and compassion are deeply intertwined.

I would describe gratefulness as my ability to return to the moment, and actually see something new is possible in that moment. So it’s a way to return to my breath, remember I’m alive, that it’s a gift be alive in any given moment, and to kind of get refocused with whatever’s happening.

So for me, singing is a practice because it gives me the ability to use my voice. To sing out pain, to sing out love, to sing out joy, to sing out whatever I’m feeling in the moment, and use that as a form of meditation, and to really just feel and be, and welcome whatever comes. Singing is that essence of life. And I am grateful to be able to use my voice in that way, to just be.

I think the real gift of a handicap – I don’t know about a disease – is that you come to a place where you know you can’t do something. And if you hold on there, something emerges. There’s always another way to go, always. Obviously, there is a gift, something to be grateful for in every disability, because it shows you more about life. It really opens you more to life in some way.

Grateful Voices