Alex with her mom, Karen, and one of her homemade pies.
Here at LearnVest, we’re big fans of the gratitude journal. After all, reminding yourself of the things you’re grateful for has a positive trickle-down effect on your finances, too. But feeling thankful every single day is easier said than done when life gets in the way. So when senior social media manager Alex Amarotico told us about her mom’s year-long gratitude project — baking a pie a day for people in her community — we knew we had to learn more.
Here, Alex recounts how the idea came about, and the lasting impact it’s had on her, her mom and the people around them.
The idea for the project came to my mom, Karen, in the middle of a warm spring night in 2011, as she lay awake trying to think of ways to express gratitude to her friends, her family and the universe in general.
She was at a turning point in her life. After 21 years of work and motherhood, she was now an empty nester. With her two children off on their own, she longed for her next adventure, something that would keep her engaged and involved in her community. She never imagined that would involve baking — and giving away — more than 500 pies.
A chef by trade, my mother is famous in our small Oregon hometown for being a wonderful baker. She’s the first to volunteer treats for fundraisers and events, part owner in a local restaurant and everyone’s favorite caterer (especially if you’re in the market for a beautiful wedding cake). She’s the type who will have a hot meal in front of you before you even realize you’re hungry.
Originally, she’d considered mailing daily thank you notes for her gratitude project — something she’d heard others had done — but her first attempts at snail mail received no response. For the project to be truly satisfying, she realized it needed to connect her to people in the moment. That’s when it dawned on her: She could do what she did best, and make pies every single day for the next year. “Of course when I woke up the next morning, I was afraid to tell anyone — they might think I’d gone insane!” she recalls.
But she did, and with encouragement from family and close friends, the “A Pie a Day Giveaway” project was born. Over the next 366 days, my mother gave away as many pies to as many people. The recipients were relatives, neighbors, friends, friends of friends, even complete strangers — she believed everyone deserved a warm pie made with love. Each night, she wrote about the pies and the people who received them on her blog, A Pie a Day Giveaway. Here’s a sample of the people who made an appearance:
- Day 6: A sweet pie for a friend who’d recently lost her husband of 55 years.
- Day 16: Apple pie for my brother’s favorite middle school teacher, Andy.
- Day 97: Another apple pie for the 89-year-old man who accidentally hit my mom with his car while she was biking.
- Day 171: An almond pear tart for my voice teacher on the evening of her appearance at a charity event.
- Day 288: A quiche lorraine for Wanda, a volunteer at the Red Cross.
- Day 300: A no-bake chocolate cream pie for Lucy, a local restaurant owner in the small Mexican town my parents visited annually.
As you can imagine, some days were harder than others. At the end of one particularly busy day, she didn’t pull a hot quiche from the oven until 9 p.m. With no idea who to deliver it to, she asked me to go on a drive with her to find a recipient. We went into town, where she spotted a man on a sidewalk huddled under a blanket. She asked me to pull over immediately. My eyes filled with tears as I watched her deliver the fresh-from-the-oven pie to him, his face a mix of surprise and happiness. Her selflessness and generosity were never more apparent to me than at that moment.
My mother took something she loved to do and used it to show love and gratitude to others. This simple concept had an incredible impact on the recipients of her gifts, as well as on those who heard her story secondhand. But it may have had the biggest impact on her: After completing her year of pies, she couldn’t stop there. She continues to give pies away (although at a slower pace) and all in all, she’s given away more than 500. I can’t imagine she’ll stop any time soon.
My mother’s project is a reminder that everyone can and should share their unique gifts with the world. After all, you just never know who’s waiting to receive them.