Mission Question:

How might we make it easier to be thoughtful?

Gratbook was born from two specific experiences that I had. The first happened while I was living in the Philippines, and the second involved my relationship with my grandfather. Each dramatically changed the way that I view the importance of the people in my life.

Lonely in the Philippines

In 2013 a non-profit named CharityVision hired me to move to the Philippines and build a healthcare company that was entirely staffed by local Filipinos. The profits of the business would be dedicated to helping the poor in the Philippines receive medical care. It was a labor of love for a powerful mission, but took a lot out of me. I was living in Davao, a beautiful city in southern Philippines that was also on the U.S. State Department's "Do Not Travel" list due to terrorist activity. While I felt safe the entire time I was there, it was an emotionally draining experience. As the only American as part of the Filipino team, I was loved by my employees, but also felt culturally isolated.

Between the white sandy beaches, beautiful jungles, and exotic foods, I was having an amazing adventure. But this experience also left me feeling alone, especially after my long-distance girlfriend and I broke up. It was an interesting time, where I knew that there were hundreds of friends and family in the United States that cared for me, but somehow the physical distance prevented them from fully supporting me in my situation. It's at this point that I envisioned the ability to deeply connect and support those people in our lives, despite distance.


Know your worth

The second experience that helped me clarify the mission of Gratbook involves my grandfather. My grandfather has always been an incredible example to me - of patience, love, and goodness. Along with my grandmother, he raised 10 children, served people in countries across the world, and has been a kind husband to my grandmother. He embodies all that I hope to be.

He took some time to write his autobiography, and provided me a copy. It was impressive to read about his accomplishments and life experiences through his own eyes. But something was missing... the book summarized his accomplishments, but left out the impact he has had on me and so many others. He was telling us his story, but didn't know the stories he had influenced. It was then that my vision for Gratbook was complete. I saw that my grandfather had recorded so much of his life, but his influence on others had yet to be recorded.

For his 90th birthday I worked with my grandmother to gather memories, thoughts, and pictures from the dozens of people he has influenced. It was absolutely heartwarming to see the love brought together. When he received his book he was overcome. Now EVERY time I see him he mentions the book. The amount of love in the book affected him deeply, and he has now read his Gratbook many times.


Thoughtfulness is Hard

I should note that my Grandpa's book took me 20+ hours to build. From gathering the responses, to formatting the content of the book, it was a LOT of work. Seeing the way that he reacted to the book made all of the effort worth it, but I had my doubts along the way whether the book would come together. This experience made me determined to make it easier for others to gather memories, stories, love, and pictures for the important people in their lives. That has become my mission - to make it easier for people to be thoughtful.


Change a Life

Think of the people in your life that you care about. After hundreds of interactions you have gained a unique perspective on them. Have you ever shared with them what that relationship means to you? Until my grandfather's book I hadn't. Somehow amidst all the dinners, casual outings, and family reunions, I hadn't taken the time to tell my grandfather what he truly means to me. It would have torn me apart if I never took that opportunity. And honestly, most of us do wait until accident, or a funeral, to really consider the impact someone has had on us. Now that I've seen the impact that one book of gratitude ("Gratbook") had on my grandfather, I've made it my mission to make it easier for others to build similar books. Such words of affirmation change hearts, for both the giver and receiver. 


If you're racking your brain for a meaningful gift, just remember, the greatest gift you can give is one that is already inside of you. It's those words of love and affirmation that are within us, but so rarely shared. So whether in a Gratbook, or in a letter, phone call, or email, go tell the people in your life what they mean to you. I've seen words of affirmation heal hearts, and absolutely change someone's day. As a lonely traveller in the Philippines, or for my aging grandfather, appreciating each other's individual value is one of the most sincere gifts possible. Share your love and insights with others and I promise you will be amazed at how far that simple act goes.


- Oliver

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