Burbank residents did more than count their blessings Saturday – they put them on display.
Inspired by Burbank author Todd Jensen’s book “On Gratitude,” community members and city staff unfurled an enormous list of things they are thankful for, written out and then strung together for exhibit. More than long enough to ring the perimeter of the Buena Vista Library, the list included 2,713 submissions collected during the last month.
“They are happy to focus on something good,” library assistant Joan Cappocchi said of the participants. “It just has been the right time for it. People have been very receptive.”
The unveiling of the list of gratitudes marked the conclusion of the annual One City One Book program — now its fifth year in Burbank — designed to promote reading and to draw people to their local libraries. This year, committee members harnessed the momentum of the city’s Centennial celebration, selecting Jensen’s non-fiction work as the book to read.
“His book was just perfect because it is on gratitude and that was a feeling we wanted to promote for our Centennial,” library staff member Louise Paziak said.
The 40-year-old Jensen, a life-long Burbank resident, has spent his career as an entertainment journalist writing for publications such as “Men’s Health” and “Costco Connections.” He was inspired to pen a book after surviving a particularly difficult period in his life that included a divorce, among other things.
Jensen began reaching out to celebrities and public figures, many of them people he had crossed paths with professionally, and asked them to share personal experiences of struggle and triumph.
Published in 2010, “On Gratitude” is a collection of 50 stories that features notable names such as Alicia Keys and Jeff Bridges. Among his favorites, Jensen said, is an entry by healer and peace activist Depak Chopra.
“He shared with me a lot of stories about when he was in his early 20s and some of the rough choices and habits and lifestyle situations he had going on,” Jensen said. “That was really inspiring for me and it has actually moved a lot of people. It is one of the stories that people come to me a lot and want to talk about.”
The author’s mother, Ardyth Jensen, said that her son was “born reading” and had long aspired to write his own book. “On Gratitude” serves to remind readers how rich and full their lives are, she said.
“We forget to be grateful for a lot of things that we take for granted,” Ardyth Jensen said.
Writing the book, and having it selected for One City One Book, has brought many familiar faces back into his life, Jensen said. The Buena Vista Library was the last stop on his paper route when he was a boy, he noted.
“Some of the ladies who are in there today are the ones who used to put Ray Bradbury in my hands when I was 12 years old,” Jensen said. “To be able to connect with them now as an adult, and to be able to have my book on the shelf — it’s beyond words.”