A Simple Gesture from the Heart Says it All
Shortly after 9/11, I began a practice of approaching military personnel whenever I see them in public to thank them for serving for us. Most times, it has been a wonderful experience for both of us. Occasionally, however, it has felt a bit awkward, for reasons that are not always apparent in the moment. Other times, I couldn’t muster up the nerve to approach them at all. What has been consistent is that every time I’ve done it, they seem very appreciative of the gesture, and I have always felt better for having expressed my gratitude.
It can be difficult for some people to approach strangers this way, because many of us have been socialized since childhood not to talk to people we don’t know, much less open our hearts to thank them for defending our very freedom to be whoever we want to be
.My occasional reluctance and awkwardness in these situations made me think that it would be nice if we civilians had a gesture or sign, similar to a military salute, that we could use to express our gratitude quickly and easily, without having to even approach a stranger. I did some research and found a sign that originated in 18th-century France. The Sign, which some are now calling The Gratitude Sign, begins by placing your hand over your heart, and then bringing your hand down and out in front of you, bending your arm at the elbow (not the wrist), and ending with your hand at about your belly button, slightly facing the person you wish to thank. Fully translated, it means, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
My next challenge was how to spread the message. I called a client, the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks, and told them I wanted to share this sign with people as a means of expressing their gratitude when circumstances might not allow for a verbal thank-you. The Seahawks suggested that I make a short video they could air during their games. So, I partnered with Amy Sedgwick of Mouse House Productions, in Seattle, to create the video(s) at GratitudeCampaign.org. Since our video first aired in 2007, an estimated 30 to 40 million people have seen it, and many are now using The Sign throughout the world.
I’m often asked if The Sign is limited to honoring military personnel. Not at all. Look around, and I’m sure that you’ll find lots of people who are serving our communities, from local to global. If you appreciate their service, give them The Sign. Say, “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”
Scott Truitt is the founder of www.GratitudeCampaign.org.