The High Adventure of Gratitude

high adventure woman on a cliffWithout a doubt, Thanksgiving is my very most favoritest holiday all year, ever, period. I love gathering with my beloveds in the luxury of a super-long weekend. I love the prominence of an autumnal feast (complete with vegetables roasted within an inch of their lives and Frank’s Norwegen flatbread) and the absence of obligatory gift-giving.

And I love the reminder to give thanks.

When I was a kid, I went to a summer camp in northern Ontario. Taylor Statten Camps have been around since the 1920s, and they run deep in my family. My grandparents, great aunt and great uncle, my father and her sister, my mother and her brother, my sister and I all spent time on Lake Canoe in Algonquin Park. I loved camp when I was young – I still dream about the pine trees and the rocky shores and how I felt there. But it’s been only as an adult that I recognize all the gifts that I received there.

One of those gifts is the idea of active gratitude. To feel gratitude, to close my eyes and breathe or speak my thankfulness is powerful happiness juice … but it is only the first step. Leaving it there is like writing a poem from my heart and then sliding it, unshared, into my sock drawer.

The graces we sang before meals at camp taught me about moving gratitude out into the world. They were sneaky, those camp founders. “Just sing the graces,” I imagine them saying in accents more menacing than Canadian. “We’ll never explicitly tell you a thing about being thankful but sing those graces every day every summer during your formative years and when you’re 50, you’ll get it.”

Each grace we sang at camp, I realize now, called not just for thanks but for actively moving our gratefulness from our hearts through our hands into action. At breakfast, we sang:

May we be true to all the light we see,
Loyal and strong, that we may proudly be,
With joy and beauty lighting up the way,
Masters of life today.

The lunch grace, written in the male-centric 1940s, had an even stronger appeal to energetically extend our thankfulness to others:

We take our stand with free men everywhere,
Who spend their lives to make earth still more fair,
And spread life’s noblest gifts that all may share.

And finally, the dinner grace opens with my very favorite line – one I equate with my camp experience:

Let us give thanks that life is high adventure.

Notice that it does not say, “Let us give thanks that life is easy peasy” or “that life always goes the way we expect.” “High adventure” actually implies the opposite. What do you think of when you hear “high adventure”? As a girl, I usually thought of white water rafting or riding a fast running horse or jumping off a high rock into a cold, deep, blue lake.

Exhilarating.
Exciting.
Challenging.
Scary.
High adventure.

As an adult, I know that the high adventure of life can also include other exhilarating, exciting, challenging, scary things like understanding the stock market, being in a long-term relationship, navigating modern air travel, and being a step-parent. Dinner grace opened with a big “woooo hoooo” for the thrill of it all, and then closed with a call to skillfulness:

As builders of a better world we seek,
May we be wise to use each newborn day,
Let us give thanks.

A few autumns ago, I took Spanish classes at our local community college. I was delighted to discover that “Thanksgiving” in Spanish is “Día de Acción de Gracias.” Literally “the day of the action of thanks.” Thanksgiving in Spanish is an active gratitude. If I’m grateful for the food I have, perhaps my acción de gracias is a donation to my local food bank. If I feel thankful for my friends, my active gratitude might be introducing my friends to each other, or making sure I express how much they mean to me. If I’m grateful for my home, maybe I wisely use the newborn day to clean the gutters and otherwise take care of it, or volunteer with Habitat for Humanity so others might also have a home.

Feel your gratitude. Notice and pay attention and recognize just how fortunate you really are. Then take your deep, heart-felt thanks out of your sock drawer. As a builder of a better world, allow your gratitude to move through you to make a positive difference.

Let us give thanks, everybody.
Let us be true to all the light we see.
Let us spread life’s noblest gifts that all may share.
Let us be wise to use each newborn day.
Let us give thanks that life is high adventure.

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6 comments
  1. joy said:

    YES! And thanks 🙂

  2. niachick said:

    A song my compadres and I sing to one another on our birthdays is: “To you we sing and thankfulness we bring to celebrate your birth this angel here on earth.” Thankful for you – it may not be your birthday, but I’m singin’ it anyway to you.

  3. Love it. I’ll take that blessing whenever I can get it. xox

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