Being Grateful, Socially

By sharing your gratitude, you create more things for which to be grateful.

Jacqueline Suskin is a presenter at the Wanderlust Hollywood Center

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When I make a list of things that I like, I’m exposing direct examples of my character. If someone were to read one of these lists, she would understand a lot about my personality. I mostly make these gratitude lists in my journal—or keep an inventory in my head—as a solitary act of reflection, appreciation, and healing. Yet in the semi-rare occasion that I’ve shared the process of list making with others, the results have been not only inspiring but fun as well.

A while back I tagged along with a friend to a house party, an intimate gathering of about 10 people, none of whom I knew. Halfway through the evening, I decided to ask the group if everyone wanted to sit in a circle and write down five things that he or she each liked. Before I knew it everyone was scribbling on pieces of paper. It was magic.

When everyone was finished writing, we instinctually started to share our lists, reading them aloud, trying to guess which list belonged to which person. They began to connect over similar items: Who liked the same things, who wished she had thought of this detail or that symbol. The whole room was buzzing with authentic connection. When we finally wrapped up, everyone thanked me for the experience. List making allowed us to reach a state of vulnerability—and created a meaningful moment—in a fun and effective way.

Another way to turn a list of likes into a shared experience is by sending mail. Yep: Good old-fashioned snail mail. I’ve had many pen pal relationships over the years, which I’ve managed to maintain. When these writing relationships begin, I always send a list of things that I like so that the person receiving my package can get to know me. It’s a potent introduction, one that is unique and straightforward.

I also send lists to old friends I haven’t seen in a while to update them on the things that I currently like. I’ve included a list in a love letter with the intention of revealing my mentality in a creative style. To read a list of someone’s likes is to see with her lens, to better know her perspective and to access the things that she finds meaningful. It’s a sweet and direct way to share and celebrate what we enjoy with one another.

I like this part of list making: Taking my own likes out of my head and offering them up to someone I care about or someone I’m interested in. Equally I find great joy in reading the things that other people like. This project has allowed me to do this over and over again, only to find new pleasure each time I sit down and sift through the piles of lists that people give me. It’s an example of limitless exuberance, list after list proving that there is so much for us all to like about this world, and as we share it we are better able to remind one another of this truth.

Photos courtesy of Jacqueline Suskin

Jacqueline SuskinJacqueline Suskin is a writer, performance poet and artist based in Los Angeles. She is the author of two books, the latest entitled Go Ahead & Like It. Known for her ongoing work with a piece she calls “Poem Store,” Suskin composes on-demand poetry for customers who choose both a topic and a price in exchange for a unique verse. Suskin has been featured in the New York Times, T Magazine, LA Times, Time Out LA, among others, and has performed at events for various organizations including Art Basel, Los Angeles Contemporary, Art of Elysium and SF MOMA.