How do I return the joy you’ve given me?”  That question stopped me in my tracks.  I had no idea that anything I had done or said had brought my friend ‘joy.’

The question kept repeating in my head and had me thinking about the essence of joy … the ‘who, what, why, when, where, how’ of it:
what is joy?
who receives joy?
when do people receive joy?
where does joy come from?
why isn’t joy experienced all the time?
… how does joy appear?

For many, joy seems to be elusive.  Personal hardship and circumstances, political corruption and moral malfeasance seem to be draining joy from souls.

While joy may seem to be elusive, it doesn’t need to disappear.

Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, said that “joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”  When I am focused on what is missing, when I center-in on what frustrates or angers or hurts me, I am less able to see the whole picture and less able to experience the joy in what I see, smell, taste, touch, experience, feel.

A smile from a stranger, brings joy.
A group of flowers, a solitary flower, brings joy.
A kind word or act, brings joy.

Sounds, sights, smells, tastes, touches – can bring me joy and arouse my sense of joy
– the sound of … children at play, a kitten’s purr, music

– the smell of … fresh bread coming out of the oven, lemon-anything, a baby fresh from the bath, a sprig of lavender, oil paint-about-to-go-on-canvas

– the taste of … a hot fudge sundae, turkey dinner, hot chocolate on a cold/rainy day, peaches-and-cream corn on the cob

– the gentle touch of … a comforting hand when in pain, a loving partner’s embrace, a heartfelt “I missed you” hug

– the sight of … home, smiles, colour anywhere, my son, art in all its expressions, libraries with books to read, mountains and oceans and fields of flowers and skies and landscapes and …

And then there are the ‘take-for-granted’ joys … until they are no longer with us:  breath, mobility, speech, communication, senses, health, memory, family, friends.

Well-known for his work in comparative mythology and religion, Joseph Campbell encouraged people to “find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”

May we “burn out the pain” of personal and societal stresses and “find a place inside where there’s joy.”

May we be open to joy’s transformation of common days into daily thanksgivings, routine jobs into privileges, and ordinary opportunities into extraordinary blessings.

Let’s reclaim joy!

Photo & Text © June Maffin