Watch CBS News

How a grieving son started a coast-to-coast gratitude journey with strangers

New book features entries showing gratitude
New book features tens of thousands of journal entries expressing gratitude 08:08

It was in a New York City café that a lone journal first appeared. On the cover were the words: "Today, I Am Grateful For..."  

Teddy Droseros, who for 10 years has written down what he is grateful for, put the book in the coffee shop with the permission of the owner. 

He would return to the café in the following days and notice the journal filling. 

"It's always an awesome experience because people would just take it and bring it to their seat and just read through it," Droseros told "CBS Mornings" lead national correspondent David Begnaud. 

Droseros said the journal was supposed to be a tool to inspire people to practice gratitude. But it did not take long before the book filled up and so another journal was left there.  

After moving to San Diego, Droseros would continue his project and leave a journal at Bird Rock Coffee. 

His friends would also leave journals at different cafes across the country and soon Droseros would create the organization, Grateful Peoples. 

"My friends would help me out, you know, when they were traveling, they would get books out there. And then I started getting random emails from strangers saying, 'Hey, I saw this in this coffee shop, can we bring it to my neighborhood?'" said Droseros. 
He says that reading the journals have lifted him up during tough times. 
"I noticed that when I would feel down, I would go pick one of the filled-up books I collected, and it would like instantly make me feel better," Droseros said. 
By his own admission, Droseros hasn't always been a grateful person, especially after he lost his mom to cancer in 2019. When he was a child,  she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He said his mother's health issues robbed him of a normal childhood and left him bitter. 

"My experience with her and her sickness, you know, MS impacts the brain and changes behavior and personality. It was very difficult. So, it was kind of hard to be grateful for it at the time," he said. "But the thing with why I became so passionate about gratitude and started grateful people because the more time I took to write in this journal, I realized that everything I was experiencing with my mom was seriously my biggest blessing I'll probably ever have." 

He wrote his first entry on February 29, 2012. In it, he wrote about how grateful he was that he got to play sports. 

"I'm thankful I was born healthy into a great family with all limbs and able to do everything I was able to as a child. Playing all those sports growing up was a blessing," Droseros said. 

In 2017, the journals were soon found in classrooms. Since then, more than 20,000 children have contributed to the project, writing down a list of things they are grateful for right before class starts.  

Droseros has collected 75,000 entries and created the book, named after his first journal, that is filled with a collection of gratitude thoughts. 

The 250-page book is filled with handwritten grateful messages collected from strangers around the country. gratefulpeoples

"I read through every single one. Which was a blessing because it was just like 75,000 bits of perspective," he said. 

Somewhere in those 75,000 entries was one from 28-year-old Deanna Mondello, a dancer who died in a car crash in 2018. Mondello, who friends described as a person of gratitude, was a reason why Droseros decided to create the book. 

One of the entries closest to Droseros is his own mother's entry. 

"She wrote: 'I'm grateful to be alive.' Just knowing where my mom was when she wrote that the fact that she was just able to think and feel that way is special to me and that's why I love this journal and I'll have it with me forever," Droseros said. "I got a piece of my mom here." 

It's been five years since Droseros first left his gratitude book. He still writes in them and often writes about his mother:
"The more you lose, the more I gain. As your illness took away the simple things, it made me realize how lucky I am to have them. I'm not sure I'd understand how lucky I am to tie my own shoes if I didn't have to tie yours when you couldn't do it anymore," he read. "But gratitude taught me it only makes sense to love something I can't change. It's the inspiration behind everything I do."  

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.