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Reflection - January 2017

posted Feb 13, 2017, 3:32 PM by Nancy DeBiasi   [ updated Feb 13, 2017, 3:35 PM ]

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"Where do you find your joy?" Cindy's question surfaced in our conversation about dismal conditions here and elsewhere on the planet - such as surging violence, increasing suicides, heartless politicians, greater hostility and less respect for people with differing views. I stumbled and mumbled a few words in response to Cindy's query, but couldn't offer much that day. The next morning I reflected on the question: Where do I find joy? I gathered a surprisingly long list of items. None had a megaphone quality but each held definite worth for keeping hope close by. Among the list: A sliver of sunshine after lengthy seasonal gloom, the gesture of a stranger's kindness, hundreds of geese circling above the lake, the taste of truth in a book, morning coffee, a good movie, felt kinship in communal prayer, the easy rhythm of a long walk, a friend's hearty laugh, and the harmonious melody of a favorite song. 

Joy often lies hidden in the layers of what is disconcerting and troublesome. It slips in briefly, whispering, "Don't let go of the possibility of change." When the focus of life tends toward "what is wrong," rather than "what goes well," pleasures and satisfactions become buried in the press of constant work, home responsibilities, care of others and, perhaps most of all, in the constant barrage of bad news fed from every media source.  When I am regularly bathed in this onslaught of news, I fail to notice the goodness in life and joy soon fades from view.

Award-winning broadcaster Krista Tippett writes in Becoming Wise: "I have yet to meet a wise person who doesn't know how to find some joy even in the midst of what is hard, and to smile and laugh easily, including at oneself. A sense of humor is high on my list of virtues, in interplay with humility and compassion and a capacity to change when that is the right thing to do. It's one of those virtues that softens us for all the others."

At the same time that Tippett's wisdom merits great value, there exist persons whose situations contain such severe and painful desolation that no amount of searching for joy can birth this positive quality. South African president Nelson Mandela encouraged remembrance of this in his 1991 message: "As we enter the New Year, we cannot forget those of our fellow citizens whose lot is the despair of homelessness, hunger and poverty. Millions of our people are still denied fundamental human rights - shelter, food and the right to a full and productive life."

Perhaps a balance can be found in George Bernard Shaw's quote from David Richo's The Five Things We Cannot Change: "This is the true joy in life: being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap, being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish, little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy." 

Wherever and however we find ourselves at the opening of 2017, whether swimming in ease or drowning in distress, let us notice and receive joy whenever possible. Let us also work tirelessly to change other's harsh conditions. Carry both of these strengths into the new year. May each of us lift our hearts toward joy and savor it's beneficial remedy for sustaining hope.

Abundant peace,

 Joyce Rupp