Five years after founding The Gratitude Campaign, I've received over 10,500 e-mails, and 1,500 comments on YouTube. It seems that there is a lot to talk about with regard to gratitude for those who serve; not the least of which is the ever present challenge of understanding how to keep the politics out of it. Hopefully this blog will give us an opportunity for some rational, reasonable, and respectful discussion. I hope you'll join us...

~Scott Truitt, FOUNDER


Monday, January 25, 2010

On "You Should..."

I received a comment today on one of my blogs below that informed me of the following:

“What a bunch of crap, there are so many people in the US that have been laid off, or have a terrible sickness, and so on and so on, you should focus your efforts at HOME.”

I could debate that point with the author, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, and explain to them that there are over 20 million living Veterans in the United States, and that a large percentage of the 2.6 million who are currently serving are also stationed at bases here in the U.S., and therefore I am focusing my efforts here at home every bit as much as anywhere else.

But I’m not sure that’s even the compelling issue here. What is more compelling to me is the frequency with which we tell other people what they “should” be doing. If you take a step back from that for just a moment and think about what is really being said behind that single word it might sound something like this:

“My world is not the way I want it to be. What is important and meaningful to me is more important than what is important and meaningful to you. And in order for all to be right in my world, you must agree with my values and priorities and do what I think should be done.”

It sounds a little less reasonable when we put it that way, doesn’t it? And yet there seems to be an increasing number of people out there who feel perfectly justified in telling others what they “should” be doing.

What I've found ironic about this is that, whenever someone tells me what I “should” be doing with thegratitudecampaign (or instead of thegratitudecampaign, as the case may be) I always ask them the same question: What are you doing to take action on that “should”? I have yet to receive a single response to that question. Not one. What I assume that that means (and my observations thus far support this assumption), is that the people who tend to speak the loudest about what others “should” be doing are typically the ones doing the least to take action on that “should” themselves. It’s as though we’ve decided that we get as much karmic credit from the universe by vehemently telling others what they should do as we get by doing that thing ourselves.

I have also observed an interesting paradox in that those who do take action on what they are passionate about tend to have more respect for and be more accepting of others’ right to have their own priorities and passions. They understand that we all have our own values and priorities based on our own personal experiences – and one is not more important than another. I think that taking action on supporting the unemployed and the sick are noble and admirable pursuits, no more or less important than supporting those who serve. And I completely support Mr. or Ms. Anonymous in taking action on those passions. I support both of those efforts in my own small way. But they do not hold a place in my heart like thegratitudecampaign does. And so I will continue to do what is important and meaningful to me, and allow others to do what is important and meaningful to them. And I trust that they are all good, and they all support each other in the end.

The point is, “should” carries with it judgment that is likely counterproductive to the intention behind the statement. I find that we are more productive when we lead by example; when we suggest things that people “could” do rather than telling them what they “should” do; and when we allow everyone the freedom and space to do what feels right for them in their hearts as we do what feels right in ours. Whenever I am tempted to tell someone what they “should” be doing, I ask myself the same question I ask others: What am I doing to take action on that “should”. And more often than not, when I am tempted to “should” someone else, I am really “shoulding” myself.

Monday, January 18, 2010

On Supporting the Troops or Supporting Peace

In my experience there seems to be a polarization in the United States; two ideas that most people see as mutually exclusive: supporting our Troops or supporting Peace. Just based on the feedback I’ve received to this campaign, it seems that the Support the Troops movement is typically associated with the conservative right, while the Support Peace movement is associated with the liberal left. And seldom do the two meet in the middle – to the point where many people will look at me cross-eyed when I suggest that you can do both -- as though it makes their brain hurt.

thegratitudecampaign is, at its core, about empowering people to open their hearts to one another. This may sound just cute as a sound bite, but when you really consider what that means it has pretty deep implications for those who choose to accept the challenge. When you take two minutes and really connect with what you are thanking our Troops for – devoting their lives, and in many cases sacrificing their lives so that we can be whoever we want to be – you cannot ignore the gravity and the magnitude of that gift. And when you look one of these people in the eye to express your gratitude for that, you cannot help but feel the exchange of emotion, and the humility of having someone that you don’t even know make that commitment and sacrifice for you. It seems to follow that if they have accepted this responsibility of protecting and defending our Freedom, we must honor and respect that by accepting the responsibility for when, where, and why we put them in harm’s way.

[ Now, before I go on I want to be clear that when I discuss the concept of war, or putting our Troops in harm’s way, I am speaking of war in general unless I specify otherwise – I am not necessarily commenting or making a judgment on our current war(s). The questions I raise need to be answered on a case-by-case basis. And they will likely be answered differently depending on which conflict we’re talking about. ]

Ultimately we, civilians, are responsible for how our government deploys our Armed Forces. Our President and our Congressmen represent us. They make their decisions based on what they believe we want. We tell them what we want with our voices (or lack thereof) and our votes (or lack thereof), and our lifestyle choices. When we tell them that we want cheap gas (and lots of it), safe travels, favorable international trade, and global influence, they must find a way to deliver. And they’ll deliver through force if a peaceful and cost-effective solution cannot be found. Our Troops bear the heaviest burden of that. So if we truly want to thank our Troops, what better way than to do what we can to work for Peace? To make sacrifices and find solutions in our own lives to solve these issues so that our Troops don’t have to solve them by force, and to keep them as safe as they keep us? We cannot claim to be supporting our Troops if we are sending them to war frivolously, or if we are not willing to make sacrifices in our own lives as they sacrifice for us.

Having said that, it’s important to recognize that sometimes in order to put a stop to war you have to go to war. It seems clear that we could not have stopped Hitler through diplomacy alone. Food shipments in Somalia, and recently in Haiti could not be delivered safely without the protection and order provided by our Troops. Because desperate people do desperate things, we often need to be willing to stand up and fight for we believe is right – to fight for Peace. And when those times come, we need the service of those who are willing to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

In the end, supporting our Troops or supporting Peace are not mutually exclusive ideas. To the contrary, we should support Peace because we support our Troops. And we should support our Troops because we support Peace. When our choices and decisions do both – as individuals, and as a country – that’s when we’re being the best version of ourselves.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On The Tragedy in Haiti

We here at thegratitudecampaign are heartbroken about the tragic events in Haiti on Tuesday. Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives, those who lost loved ones, and those still looking.

It is worth noting, at the same time, how the worst of situations can bring out the best in us all. The international response to this crisis has been admirable, and we hope that it continues as a shining example of how we can love and support our fellow human beings regardless of their nationality, religious or political beliefs. Love and compassion know no borders.

We have made a small donation to help in the relief efforts, and we encourage you to consider doing what you can to help those in need. You can make a donation to the Red Cross by visiting http://www.redcross.org/.

You can also simply text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your wireless bill.

thegratitudecampaign is, at it's core, about showing people what's in your heart. What better time to do that than now?

Monday, January 11, 2010

On Christmas Spirit

I know that that headline might seem a little odd for a blog posted on January 12th. Christmas is over, right? Yes it is. The Christmas tree has been taken down, the Christmas music removed from our iPods to make room for more mainstream stuff, and the gifts are all placed in their new homes next to all the old stuff -- to the point that the newness of them has almost already warn off.

What I find interesting about this time of year and what I wanted to comment on is this:

How many of us watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special every year? And how many more just enjoy the Vince Guaraldi music from that special? In his song, “Christmas Time is Here” there is a line that says, “Oh that we could always see such spirit through the year.” There’s another song in my rotation called “I Wish Every Day Could Be Like Christmas” by Jon Bon Jovi. And I’m sure that there are many more with similar sentiments that we all sing along with, fully entrenched in the Christmas spirit, and think, “Yeah – I wish every day could be like Christmas, too.” The warm, fuzzy feeling that we have at that time of year; the open-heartedness; the willingness to reach out to, and care for, and love our fellow man -- I know that that sounds sappy and sentimental now that we’re out of the Christmas season. But really, what’s so crazy about that idea? If we can be that way at Christmas (or Hanukah, or Kwanza, or Ashura, or Solstice, or whatever you choose to celebrate this time of year), what is stopping us from being that way all year? It’s amazing how quickly that feeling goes away, and we settle right back into our routines and our self-centeredness.

When we think of January, we tend to think of the New Year, and of resolutions. How many of us make resolutions that have anything to do with reaching out to other people like we did at Christmas? I’m guessing not too many. Resolutions tend to be about losing weight, reaching our financial goals, quitting smoking… which are all good things, of course. I’m just struck by how quickly we return to thinking about “me, me, me.”

So this week, I’d like to suggest a different kind of resolution. What if we resolved to show our Holiday spirit all throughout the year? What if we reached out to our fellow man, and showed compassion, and understanding, and respect to others every day of the year? What if we focus our attention on how much we are alike with the people around us, rather than how we are different, and we deal with those people with love rather than fear? It may sound sappy and idealistic, but I can live with that. I’d rather live with that than the alternative. And I’m man enough to be sappy and sentimental and be ok with it. I’ve had great role models who've been man enough to be loving and compassionate and serve their fellow man - a Captain, and a Master Sergeant just to name two. And I can follow their lead. How about you?