Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

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.

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


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 andndash; 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


Reach Michele Thomas, the Del Norte Triplicate's publisher, at

mtandshy;hoandshy;masandshy;@triplicate.com, 464-2141 or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.