The tree on the side of Jill Carstens’ yard has shed its leaves, save for a few crunchy stragglers.
But the branches are far from bare.
Slips of paper dangle from an orange string that’s woven in between the branches. And each slip carries a handwritten message of gratitude.
Carstens, who lives near 56th and Pine Streets, started her “gratitude tree” at the beginning of the month. It’s a way for friends, family and neighbors to share what they’re thankful for this holiday season.
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She got the idea from a friend in Texas who’s been hosting a gratitude tree for a number of years. When Carstens moved into the house, she realized her tree on the north side of her house would be a good fit.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Carstens said. “I didn’t know if it would just be my paper hanging up there, but people have taken to it.”
About 50 slips of paper were hanging from the tree on Friday. Some of the scrawled responses included having family close by; good health, iced coffee and sunshine; and “for doggos who brighten my day.”
Carstens, who’s lived in the house since February, said she’s been able to meet new neighbors through the tree. Many of the papers came from folks walking by. Sometimes, after craning their necks, drivers pull over and get a closer look at the tree.
The tree trunk boasts a bright yellow sign that says, “give thanks” and “gratitude tree.” Near the sidewalk is a wooden box holding supplies. A plastic pouch with slips of paper and thin silver wire was dusted in frost. Grateful canines are welcome, too, and can take a dog treat from the box.
It’s been interesting to see what people write on the papers, Carstens said. It’s easy to be grateful for big things, she added, but sometimes you find gratitude in the little details.
She’ll keep the gratitude tree running through the end of the month. She plans on bringing it back next November.
“It started as supporting my friend and believing in the endeavor. But I think it’s building a sense of community and increasing my own gratitude and happiness,” Carstens said. “It’s definitely a talking point. I’d certainly like to be known for being the house with the gratitude tree.”
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