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Gratitude hits the road Allison Sampite | Fri, Jul 16 2010 04:00 PM

Dave Block is not your average Joe, though he may try to convince you he is. He has his own "grat pack," which he defines as "a group of people who openly express their gratitude by thanking others in words, and even moreso by our acts."

Like so many in today's economy, Block struggled to make ends meet and eventually lost his job and home. During his five-month employment working at a toll booth, the Chula Vista resident discovered his life passion in the form of gratitude.

He began reading self help books such as: "Integrity is Everything" by John Lavenia, "Thank You Power" by Deborah Norville and his favorite, "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill, which whet his appetite for a new journey and lead to a film called "The Gratitude Tours."

"The more we can find in life to feel grateful about the more we increase our life satisfaction," he said.

"The Gratitude Tours," which premiered Dec. 6, 2009, in San Diego, was filmed at Balboa Park in front of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and on the pier in front of the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa. The second tour kicked off in Miami, Fla., on May 13 and continued through Lake Worth, Palm Gardens, Orlando and ended in Cocoa. He plans to have his next tour in San Francisco this October.

"The tours represent the perfect world that we all could be living in," Block said. Along his journey, the Los Angeles native never dreamed the opportunity would hurl him into former NFL running back Ricky Watters, but it did.

Watters, a 41-year-old father of two, found himself in a challenging transition from being a star athlete and focusing on touchdowns and yardage, to being a husband, dad and community leader. The first thing you learn is humility, according to Watters.

"I realized I didn't really know myself because I was too busy trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be," Watters said.

He began questioning how he could be a better man. Then last year, Watters received an email from Block about putting the tours together and ultimately helping to spread gratitude around the world.

"I was surprised that he [Block] wanted to do something like this, especially at this time in his life."

Block's goal is to inspire people to have vision for the future, a purpose in life and faith in self. The idea of these tours focuses on an environment of gratefulness that reminds people of the blessings in life. He created the "gratitude ball," a gift he gives as a baseball-size reminder to be grateful and encourage others. Block said if you envision what you want it will happen. "People are longing to connect in a more meaningful way," he said.

"Everyone can find something to be grateful for," Watters said. And when you do you realize that you're really blessed, he added.

A foster child, Watters established the Urban Youth League, an organization committed to mentoring and fostering at-risk youth and helping them become leaders in their community.

"He truly understood that by living a life of gratitude, you will not only receive more of what you truly want but you will be led to your eventual happiness," Block said of Watters.

Grat pack friend Jo Englesson is the founder of the three-year-old organization TOFA, which stands for Token of Appreciation. She was inspired by the significance of gratitude when she literally bumped into an older gentleman at the airport one day. After assuming the man would be upset and react rudely she apologized, but he assured her it was not at all a problem and continued his path.

Motivated by the encounter, Englesson came up with the unique idea to coin gratitude. In creating this coin, Englesson developed a challenge for herself to give one coin away every day for an entire year. Once a person receives a coin, the idea is to give it to somebody else, creating a pay it forward mentality.

"It's been a blessing to see how many people are jumping on board and have the same heart," Watters said.

As of last year, 5,000 coins are in circulation around the world. Each coin is unique in that it has a tracking number on it, which you can register online. Once a person does this, it provides the history of the coin, including where it has been around the world. There is also a blog where people can upload their stories so everyone can read about that person's experience with gratitude.

"When your commitment is larger than your racket, things happen," Englesson said.

Block said he is just an average person willing to cross a comfort zone in order to make a difference.

"He really exemplifies an unsung hero," Englesson said.


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