GALLATIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — All around a middle Tennessee city, residents see this symbol. It's on signs. It's on buildings. It's everywhere.
So, what does it mean?
The man behind the symbols weighs in on the story behind them and what they've come to mean to so many.
You come to Old Soul Tattoo, you have to find something that speaks to your passion, what you love, how you look at life. So, what would be the right tattoo for freelance photographer from Gallatin, Richard Suter? The symbols — "+ > - "
“Positivity is greater than negativity," Suter said, showing the symbols tattooed across his wrist. "These three little symbols have meant a lot to me.”
If you catch Suter out and about, he would love nothing more than to tell you about them. He loves a conversation, loves people.
“I always try to be positive with things," said Suter. "If I’m keeping lots and lots of good up here, I know my life will follow those steps.”
When Suter came into Old Soul for that tattoo three years ago, he didn’t know how much meaning it would carry for him one day.
“April 6, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer," he said. "Blood sugar went through the roof from the treatment. I started hallucinating, and I collapsed. I was unconscious. I was in CCU at the hospital.”
To keep people updated on his progress, Suter’s wife started a page on Facebook; Richard’s Recovery. Right there was the symbol. Suter didn’t know this was the beginning of something.
“Somebody called me and asked me ‘would you care if I got your tattoo?'" he remembered. "I said, ‘absolutely not. That’d be great.’”
It didn’t take long before it got big. All around the community, signs started going up outside banks, city hall, and the chamber of commerce. People all over the country began following Richard’s Recovery, taking that symbol and applying it to their own stories. It was people like Erica Twidle.
“Mid-June, I got a call the company I was working for decided to go a different direction and eliminated my role," Twidle said. "With two kids and health insurance and during a pandemic, the worry just totally flooded. His image just kept popping up in my head. There’s always a silver lining. There's always some good in what’s going on.”
“Getting to lift people up and let them see the positive side of things that are normally horrific, it’s been a blessing," Suter said.
Then came a new day to share those symbols.
"Today is the 2021 Christmas Parade here in Gallatin," Suter smiled, climbing into a truck, carrying bags of wrist bands of the symbol. "Fortunately for me, I get to be the grand marshal."
As Suter continues chemo treatments, he said he’s amazed at the unexpected power three little symbols have had.
“I’ve had more good than bad, more happy than sad, more pros than cons than I ever had in my life, which is a strong thing to say when you’ve been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer," he said. "No matter what you’re going through in life, you can get through that. We rise by lifting others, and man, have I risen.”