Ah Jee with his grandson.

This is what gratitude looks like

At the end of each year, many of us try to turn our focus towards gratitude. We reflect on what really matters in our lives. We take inventory of blessings. We go around the table at Thanksgiving to share what we are thankful for, then reinforce our gratitude in family newsletters shortly afterwards. We are thankful for family, for health, for our jobs, and for a year’s worth of accomplishments.

These practices and rituals are beneficial. But our goal should be to make practicing thankfulness a part of our daily lives. We should seek to go beyond holiday festivities and decorations in order to infuse everything we do with a deep sense of gratitude.

Families in rural villages around the world can help us understand what gratitude really looks like. Many of these families will never see a meal as large as a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Many have to deal with the grief of empty plates at the dinner table, or even empty seats. These families are not immune to the difficulty life can bring.

Plant With Purpose empowers farming families, helping to eliminate unnecessary hardship through restoration and renewal. As participants transform their communities, they experience gratitude that many of us can hardly fathom. They have so much to teach us about being thankful.

Ah Jee with his wife and grandson.
Ah Jee with his wife and grandson.

Gratitude looks like a happy grandchild

Ah Jee is a member of a generation that had to escape Myanmar into Thailand for safety. Belonging to a persecuted ethnic minority left many members of the Lahu tribe with no choice but to escape across the border into Thailand to start a new life.

They were safer in Thailand, but life was still full of challenges. Lacking statehood, Ah Jee’s community had to prove they could manage their forest, unify themselves to protect it, and gain further recognition from the government.

It took Ah Jee’s community years to establish their presence in Thailand. “We worked together,” he explains. “The first group that arrived protected the forest for us. Then we protected it for the next generation. That generation will protect it for my grandchildren’s generation.”

Ah Jee and his wife look after their grandson on their land. While the boy’s grandparents may have known the hardships of persecution, the boy can anticipate a brighter future.

Dieula surveys her thriving family farm.
Dieula surveys her thriving family farm.

Gratitude looks like a gift of bunnies

In Haiti, Dieula is also no stranger to tragedy. When the historic earthquake struck in 2010, she lost many friends and neighbors in her community. This and other natural disasters also damaged her farm and made it difficult for her to earn a living and grow enough food.

Dieula was invited to join a Plant With Purpose Sustainable Development Group. She learned how to plant trees in order to restore the soil on her land. She learned how to make grafts to better cultivate her trees. She learned how to raise better livestock including a donkey and rabbits.

“I feel very blessed. Everything I didn’t understand before, Plant With Purpose has helped me to understand,” said Dieula. “When you understand, you get together with others who don’t understand and you help them understand.”

Dieula’s generosity of spirit is an expression of her gratitude. She doesn’t want to keep her knowledge or the fruits of her labor to herself. “I give rabbits and trees to people whether or not they are associated with Plant With Purpose. This gesture encourages them to join. This helps the organization grow and move forward.”

Juan shows visitors around his farm.
Juan shows visitors around his farm.

Gratitude looks like finding God in everything

Juan’s farm in the Dominican Republic used to have problems retaining water as well as nitrogen and other nutrients. For years, it was only used as grazing land for cattle. It wasn’t until Juan learned about agroforestry from Plant With Purpose that he realized trees could transform the land into fertile grounds for growing cacao.

Cacao production has transformed Juan’s life. For nine months out of the year, he can sell case after case of cacao pods, which he uses to help his family go to school and live in a comfortable home. Beyond the material benefits, Juan also sees caring for the land as an opportunity to grow spiritually.

“Producing plants here on the farm is my passion,” Juan explains. “God speaks to me through the environment. My life has changed almost completely since I arrived here on the farm and started working here. I hope that this land will provide enough for me to give a rich life to my family. I give thanks to God and thanks to these hands for helping me work on this farm.”

We are extremely thankful for our Purpose Partners who continue to show up in support of farmers like Juan, Dieula, and Ah Jee. To learn more about how you can join them, visit our Purpose Partner page!

Philippe Lazaro

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