I e-mailed an old friend recently telling her I planned to be in her neck of the woods this spring and would love to visit her. We’ve known each other nearly 40 years but rarely see each other now that we live so far apart. I looked forward to spending an afternoon together like we did a couple of years ago. We had a lot of laughs and great conversation over a long lunch and I was hoping for more of the same.
Jim Tunney, right, with Wild Rivers Community Foundation vice-chairman Kevin Hartwick and me at the WRCF Tailgate Party last Saturday night. Del Norte Triplicate/Rick Postal
The reply I got wasn’t what I expected: “I’d love to see you but I’m afraid you wouldn’t have much fun. The way I’m feeling right now I don’t want to be around people. My health isn’t very good, my car needs work, I’m retiring in April and don’t know how I’ll be able to live on Social Security. I’ve just lost my joie de vivre.
I re-read the e-mail several times, wondering about “joie de vivre.” Sure, I’ve heard the term before, but it’s been awhile, and I’ve never personally known anyone admit to losing it. Literally it means “joy of living” in French, and implies a “delight in being alive” (Dictionary.com). Webster says it’s a “keen or buoyant enjoyment of life.”
I couldn’t shake the haunting feeling I got from reading Pat’s e-mail. Where could I find that elusive joie de vivre and get it back for my friend? I wondered if it actually exists these days. Was there a single “buoyant enjoyment of life” moment left in a person’s day? Isn’t everyone you know suffering from some symptom of the epidemic of despair that seems to be sucking the life out of our joie de vivre?
Politics, Wall Street, the economy, climate change, unemployment, employment, airport security, processed food — you name it and there’s a downer just waiting in the wings to steal your joie de vivre.
The more I contemplated joie de vivre the sadder I became.
Then last weekend I was with a group of incredible people who brought me back to my senses and my sense of place. Those people were folks in our community. Some were young and some were older than me, men and women, students and professionals and everything in between. In fact, one of them was my own son.
We were at the Wild Rivers Community Foundation’s “Tailgate Party” — an annual fundraiser with a refreshing new twist. Some guests went with the theme and sported a jersey or hat of their favorite team. I wore black and white to honor the guest speaker – the legendary NFL referee Jim Tunney.
Walking through the doors of the Tolowa Event Center greeted by cheers and applause from the Tsunami All-Starz jolted me into a “keen and buoyant enjoyment of life.”
No one in attendance was talking about a glass that’s half empty because Saturday night was the night for celebrating every glass in our region that’s full. There were many stories of successes along the Wild Rivers Coast to share. And all those successes had one thing in common: people working together to make it happen. Dr. Tunney’s spin on it was that T.E.A.M. stands for “Together Everyone Accomplishes More.”
Tunney’s presentation was both entertaining and inspirational. He used his real life experiences sprinkled with amusing football anecdotes to lead the audience into the end zone of community where anything is possible. By the end of Jim Tunney’s speech I could feel the joie de vivre pulsing in my veins.
I have about six weeks before I visit Pat. I’m going to find new words to reach her and help her recover what she’s temporarily misplaced.
Reach Michele Thomas, the Del Norte Triplicate’s publisher, at firstname.lastname@example.org, 464-2141 or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.