The Gratitude Campaign

BettyJean Kling

We have service persons all over the world, they are putting their lives on the line in many ways including in ways we never considered. In addition to all their others duties they help other nations with the disasters that befall their people as in Haiti and they are patrolling the oceans during a Tsunami. In Japan for example, they are serving during a possible nuclear meltdown, they do so much more than just fight our wars, and protect our nation.

Whenever I see a service person I always say “thank you” but sometimes they are passing by in a vehicle or out of earshot. Today I learned of a campaign that will allow us all to show our gratitude with a simple sign. I hope you will use it.

How to Sign

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart”:

The sign we are using is intended to communicate “thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

To make the sign simply place your hand on your heart as though you’re saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Then pull your hand down and out, bending at the elbow (not the wrist), stopping for a moment at about the belly button with your hand flat, palm up, angled toward the person you’re thanking.

According to Norman Heimgartner, Ed.D., author of “Behavioral Traits of Deaf Children” and former Professor of Education at the University of Puget Sound, this sign originated in France in the late 1700’s, and was published in “Theorie des Signes”, a dictionary of signs by the Abbe Sicard. The sign was brought to the United States in 1816 by the Reverend Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, founder of the American School for the Deaf, who later modified it to start at the chin rather than at the heart. That sign is now the standard sign for “thank you” in American Sign Language (ASL). The original sign, starting at the heart, is less commonly known today and might now be considered “slang”.

For more information on American Sign Language, please see

Using the standard ASL sign for “Thank You” was our original plan for this campaign. We loved the idea that our campaign, in addition to thanking those who serve, might also bring some awareness to the hearing impared, just as an added bonus. But when we considered the context in which this will be used we had some concerns. Unlike other situations where people are using ASL conversationally in public, our sign is used largely at random from one passing stranger to another. It is the only sign being used – there isn’t any other use of Sign to give the receiver a context for the sender using “sign language”. So this sign will come off as a passing gesture all on its own. Our concern was that, if the receiver is not familiar with ASL (which is more likely than not going to be the case) they might mistake the ASL sign for Thank You for another well-known gesture that also uses one hand just under the chin – a rather offensive gesture. We didn’t want those who serve to think that people were telling them to “_____ off.” This is especially of concern because there are those who, even in this day and age, will spit on our Troops or call them offensive names if they disagree with something our Troops have been tasked with doing by our politicians.

So, instead, we chose this sign because it starts at the heart. So even if the receiver doesn’t know exactly what it means yet, they’ll know it comes from your heart, and that it is likely a good thing. And, although the down side is that we are not teaching anyone ASL, the up side is that we are teaching a completely unique sign, with a unique message for a unique audience.

We hope that makes sense…

2 Responses

  1. Thank you. This is a lovely practice and can overcome any shyness that could otherwise prevent one from expressing true gratitude when encountering a person whose help you appreciate. It’s worth training oneself to make it second nature – something you don’t have to think about: you just do it. Again, Thanks.

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