I’ve long been a fan of the actor Gary Sinise and decided to give his book Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service a try. As you likely know, a lot of celebrity biographies are just self-service PR. Many of them are not even written by the celebrity. I just had a feeling that this would not be one of those books. It sure wasn’t.

Yes, it was a book about Sinise’s rise to stardom. Yes, it made sure to mention the successes in his career. But this book is so much more than that. It is a look at the ‘attitude of gratitude’ that Sinise finds as important as his work. When I say work too, I am talking about much more than acting… his acts of service are obviously as important to him as anything.

I loved learning of his involvement with one of my favorite Sinise rolls – George Milton in Of Mice and Men. Yes, it was a role that he seemed born to play but did you know his involvement with the play went much further back than the 1992 film? Everyone also remembers him as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump. Did you realize that is the role that catapulted him into the world of service to others?

He has been a tireless supporter of causes he believes in (something given much lip service in Hollywood.) But more than that – his ideals seem to align with mine in that these are causes that are dear to my heart as well.

In the book, you learn all about the real-life struggles hidden from the glitz and glamour of the media spotlight. Rather than standing on a soapbox and bitch about what isn’t perfect in some nirvana-like imaginary dream world, Gary Sinise got off his ass and did something. He will tell you it was nothing, but he found ways to make a difference.

It is kind of like the old adage about about starfish washed up on the beach:

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,

“It made a difference for that one.”

Gary Sinise is not trying to save the world. He is doing his part to touch the life of one person when he can. He is a great example to all of us.

Reading this book has prompted me to take action. I hope to be able to announce soon the result of his inspiration.

by Chris Doelle