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


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On Finding Beauty in Gray

As some of you may know, I hail from the Emerald City – Seattle. And, although Seattle is well known for its rain, most Seattleites will tell you that it’s not the rain that gets to you, it’s the gray. The rain in Seattle is actually a very light, misty rain most of the time – barely noticeable, and certainly not requiring of an umbrella. However, even when it’s not raining, the skies in Seattle can be a perfectly even, formless, featureless, uniform sheet of gray from mid-October through early June. After 30+ years in Seattle, it’s not the rain that gets to me – it’s the gray.

With regard to people, and our interactions with one another on the other hand, I’ve come to find a tremendous beauty in grayness. You see, in my observation, people are becoming increasingly polarized – especially in our infotainment. Objectivity, reason, logic, fairness, and understanding all seem to be endangered values as we give more and more of our attention and energy to the far left and the far right commentators ranting about their opposition, verbal jabs and accusations flying, fueled by what one of my former teachers used to call “dumb logic”; or worse, complete ignorance. What’s worse, we frequently presume that if someone is saying that something is “X” that means that they are saying that it can’t be anything else – it can’t also be “Y” or “Z” in addition to being “X”. And we attack and debate accordingly, based on an incomplete and presumptuous understanding of their point of view.

The truth is, there seldom is a capital “T” Truth. There is your truth, my truth, and any number of other truths depending on our own circumstances, experiences, priorities, and points of view. To say that any issue is black and white is to live in ignorant bliss; or perhaps egoic bliss. They may be one in the same. As I have mentioned before, there is no absolute “right” and absolute “wrong”. There is only what is, and whether what is works for you or not. Finding, or achieving what works – what is productive – for you typically requires not just finding what works for you, but also respecting what works for your “opponent”, and finding that sweet spot in the middle -- the gray that lies between the black and the white.

It is amazing how much time and energy can be spent when two polarized viewpoints go head to head in the hopes that one will win out as empirically correct. I invite you to consider that we don’t always have to be “right” – just productive. We don’t always have to agree -- just cooperate. We don’t always have to like, or even understand opposing opinions -- just respect them. I invite you to join me, here in my wonderful, beautiful, healthy gray world.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On "Heroes"

I was tempted to write a lengthy blog today on how to speak to those who serve – sharing some insights from my experience over the course of this campaign that other civilians might not be aware of. And I still may do that another time. But in thinking about what I wanted to say, one thing kept coming to the forefront: Don’t call them Heroes.

Now, I want to be clear here: I am not suggesting this because I don’t believe that they deserve to be called Heroes. I do; wholeheartedly. In my assessment, anyone who has dedicated – and in many cases, sacrificed -- their life to serve others is the definition of a Hero.

Having said that, what I know is that if one thing is consistent among every member of the Armed Forces that I’ve spoken to, it is their humility. Call a Veteran or Service Person a Hero, and I guarantee you that they will offer you someone else who they believe is more deserving of that title. Someone who served longer, suffered more, or accomplished more. There is always someone who, in their assessment, is more deserving of the title “Hero” – no matter who you talk to, how long they've served, how much they've suffered, or how much they've accomplished.

What I’ve learned from this is that, “Heroes” are in the eye of the beholder. By all means, if you admire someone who serves, feel free to tell them that they are your Hero. Just don’t expect them to agree that they are a Hero.

And that’s part of what makes them Heroes -- their humility.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

On Being Disconnected

I recently took a trip to the East Coast, and what I witnessed in the airports along the way was somewhat disheartening.

If you’ve read any of the Story of How This Began on our web site, you know that I started this campaign as a result of an experience I had in an airport. I observed a Soldier in uniform, and the civilians staring at him but not saying anything to him. I decided that civilians needed a “salute” of their own that would make it easier, and therefore more commonplace, for them to express their gratitude toward those who serve to defend our freedom. It seemed somewhat unfair to ask a man or woman to serve, requiring them to wear a uniform in public places, and then stare at them in that uniform, but not tell them what’s on our minds – not share with them how much we appreciate their service. Thus making them question what’s behind those stares, making them feel separate from the rest of us dressed in our civilian clothes, living our civilian lives.

On this trip, some eight years later, I noticed something even more disconcerting: Not only were people not connecting with those who serve, they were not connecting with anyone at all. As I sat in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport waiting for my flight home, I watched as hoards of people shuffled from gate to gate, hustling and bustling amongst their fellow passengers – their fellow human beings – but not seeing them as anything more than an obstacle – an inconvenience keeping them from making it to their next gate as quickly and easily as they’d like to. There was little eye contact, few “excuse me’s”, and “please” and “thank you’s” were rare – even between people who were talking to each other. Or perhaps I should say, talking at each other.

I’d like to encourage you to observe how often you behave like this in public. How often do you feel disconnected from your fellow man? As though everyone around you is just an obstacle that you must work around to get what you want, or get to where you want to be. It is this culture of isolation and disconnection that leads to the miscommunication and distrust in our relationships, both locally and globally, that then leads to conflict. Next time you’re feeling that way, take a deep breath. Pause for just a moment, and observe the people around you. Consider what their life might be like – what they might have on their minds. Consider how much like your life theirs might be. Consider how much you might have in common with these people. And treat them like you would like to be treated in that moment. Acknowledge them. Respect them. Look them in the eye, and notice what you see. You just might be surprised to find that you see… yourself.