Instructions and materials in front of Tricia Jamiol’s gratitude tree on Elsmere Avenue in South Portland. Sean Murphy / For The Forecaster

SOUTH PORTLAND — A spontaneous effort by residents in Portland and South Portland has led to an outpouring of positive messages about life, love and family from their respective communities, all based around a simple question: What are you grateful for?

On Elsmere Avenue in South Portland, people have had their chance to answer that question for the past two weeks, ever since Tricia Jamiol set up what she called a gratitude tree in her front yard. On a small table in front of the tree, next to a plastic container, is a neatly-lettered sign: “In trying times such as these, it is easy to forget what we are grateful for. Please take a moment to reflect on what you are grateful for and if you feel moved, write it on an enclosed tag and hang it on the tree.” She also urges people to read the notes that have already been hung.

Instructions and materials in front of Tricia Jamiol’s gratitude tree in South Portland. Sean Murphy / For The Forecaster

Jamiol said she and her fiancee thought it would be a good idea to focus on positive messages, given the recent news of political division and the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was reading the tags on the tree and people write amazing things,” she said.

As of Tuesday this week, she said, there are 45 tags affixed to the tree with personal messages. They range from simple, one-word submissions, such as “surfing” or “gymnastics” to the more profound, such as “the happiness in our struggling world!” One person wrote, “That my cancer is curable.”

Jamiol, in examining the tree on Tuesday, discovered one tag which reads, “Marrying my best friend.”

“I hadn’t seen that one yet,” she said. “That’s cool!”

Jamiol noted that 2020 has been “brutal” to her financially. She lost her full-time job as an operations manager in March, and her side gig as a wedding photographer hasn’t gone well due to the pandemic. But she said efforts like the gratitude tree have helped her keep a positive outlook.

A similar gratitude tree in front of the home of Allison Beck on Ludlow Street in Portland. More than 200 people have contributed messages so far, Beck said. Sean Murphy / For The Forecaster

“It brings you back to the simple things,” she said.

Jamiol said she got the idea from a friend, Allison Beck, who lives in Portland and had done the same thing. At Beck’s home on the corner of Ludlow and Marlow Street, a huge winter king hawthorne tree bears a similar collection of tags.

“I saw it on the news,” Beck said. “Somebody from Texas had done it, and I thought, ‘Why not?'”

Beck said she set out a similar collection of tags and instructions back in December. She offered 300 tags and so far, she said, 225 people have written messages down and affixed them to the tree. She has even had friends from out of town contact her through Facebook and ask her to put up messages on their behalf. She said she’ll leave the messages up until the end of the month or until she runs out of tags, whichever comes first.

Like Jamiol, Beck said she just wanted to provide, even for a little while, something uplifting for people to contribute to for a change.

“It’s been kind of reaffirming,” she said. “The importance of realizing what you have, and in the big picture, that’s what’s important, not all the crap in the world.”

Sean Murphy 780-9094

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