by Lori Brower
During the holiday season, we are inundated with reminders to be grateful, have the attitude of gratitude, appreciate what you have, and so on. Articles and books on gratitude have saturated readers everywhere. It became apparent to us that perhaps while the focus has been on “thanks” with limited substance and abundance of fluff, the real meaning or power may come when combined with “giving.”
It is appropriate to thank someone for a gift or kind deed. In turn, we usually like to have our gifts or kind deeds acknowledged, especially if it involved a sacrifice of some degree. Hugs are my favorite, to either thank or be thanked. But then what? Why does gratitude feel better sometimes more than others? Intriguing discussions are beginning to emerge. I have a story that demonstrates how to combine “thanks + giving.”
Nick attended First Descents (a non-profit foundation offering free week-long adventure camps for young adult cancer survivors) after being declared to be in remission for the first time. He was 19, gaining weight and growing hair after a brutal year of chemo, radiation and surgeries. He had lost a full year of school, lost his confidence in dating and the dread of his cancer returning was lurking in the corners of his young mind.
The camp was enormously healing for him. There were other campers near his age having gone through similar situations that he had endured. They got it. He enjoyed not having me hovering nearby, asking him how he was feeling and if I could take his temperature; he admired the pure beauty of Glacier National Park; he relished the freedom of his kayak on the river; he thoroughly delighted in being able to complete a “roll”; he embraced the closing ceremonies in bonding his new friendships while releasing his deeply imbedded fears. He surrendered his identity as a cancer survivor and regained his individuality as a man. He found his future again.
He appreciated the experience. He was grateful. Now what? He knew.
“MOM!!! We have to raise money so that more kids like me can go!”
At this particular juncture, we were in the midst of the busiest time of the year for softball season. Both of his sisters played competitive ball, which comprises of about 100 games a year – being at about game 85 when he came home from camp. As I mentioned, he had also just finished up a year of treatment and we were all exhausted – mentally, physically, and emotion
ally. Except Nick; He was feeling pretty dang good after returning home from camp.
I said, “Nick, I only know softball right now.”
“So let’s have a charity tournament!” he suggested.
“I’m sorry, what?”
Six weeks later, we kicked off Nick’s Wacky Warriors first charity event (WACKY stands for Warriors Against Cancer in Kids & Young-adults). Sixteen fast-pitch softball teams played in a round-robin format from sun up to sun down. With volunteers, umpires and an enthusiastic group of supporters, we all embraced Nick’s vision to help other kids like himself and watched it manifest into reality.
Was this a one-time thing? Nope, cancer is still attacking children and young adults. He broadened his vision to include supporting childhood cancer research in hopes to eradicate cancer entirely. Nick didn’t want to just have one charity tournament; he wanted his vision to be sustainable. He wanted to make a difference. He did.
Three months after Nick died, we hosted the 4th Annual Charity Softball Tournament last September (the month representing childhood cancer awareness). Thirty-two teams participated, competing on 11 fields over two full days. WACKY continues to be embraced enthusiastically with coaches wearing outrageous wigs; players wearing their uniforms backwards with crazy socks; parents, grandparents and siblings dressed in various home-made costumes; posters of our local cancer children displayed throughout both ball fields. They got it.
We have also expanded to marathons, high endurance mountain bike races, triathlons and so on. Everyone likes to be WACKY.
To ensure we keep grounded in WACKY’s vision, Lee and I will be camp parents at the next First Descents camp in Moab this summer. The power of saying thank you, being appreciative and expressing sincere gratitude grew with enormous momentum when combined with “active” giving.
Where has gratitude turned into “thanks” + “giving” for you?