Gratitude—enriching our lives with grace and impelling action

Near the beginning of a solo trek that would eventually take explorer Keith Nyitray across more than a thousand miles of the rugged mountains of the Brooks Range in Alaska, he spent a month living near Old Crow in Canada's Yukon Territory. As he waited out the spring thaw along the Porcupine River with Ken Nukon, a Gwichin Indian elder, he passed the time helping out with the many chores around Ken's sod-covered log cabin.

One of the things that most impressed the traveler about his Gwichin host was the older man's buoyant sense of gratitude, which seemed to come so naturally to him. Despite a serious physical handicap, he was "always thankful for all that he had." In recounting the experience, Mr. Nyitray writes of his new Indian friend's joyous outlook on life: "The Creator, he said, gave him what he needed when he needed it; it was his task to recognize and appreciate those gifts. Throughout the day, as he went about his chores, I'd often hear him whisper: 'Mahsi-choo—Thank you greatly.' " (See Keith Nyitray, "Alone Across the Arctic Crown," National Geographic, April 1993, pp. 70-93.)

As I read this account, I thought about the busy lives most of us lead as we hurry about from one thing to the next. The commute to work. The schedule that leaves no empty space in the business calendar. Getting the kids off to school. The constant obligations of a parent working at home, raising a family. The assembly line in an industrial plant, where the labor continues almost nonstop until the five o'clock whistle. The countless jobs on a farm, from sunup to sundown.

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Your inheritance
June 21, 1993

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