As we approach the holiday season, we hear the word “joy” more often. However, many people, including myself, have only a faint understanding of the true meaning of “joy.” Contrary to the popular opinion of those who are idealists, joy does not require one’s life to be in perfect condition. More often than not, joy pops into one’s life in the midst of life’s deepest sorrows and sufferings.
As I listen to people in the midst of great suffering, I have come to recognize the blessing of God’s gift of joy. There is a saying which goes: “Laughter is close to tears.” This saying portrays the true meaning of joy. Recently, a parent was sharing with me a desperate story of suffering involving drug addiction in their family. This situation seemed hopeless both for today and for generations to follow. My logical mind could not see many positive things for this parent to look forward to in the future. However, God brought a gift of levity to this situation with the timely presence of a good priest.
During our conversation, a parish priest stopped by to say “Hi” to this parent. The parent saw the priest in his long black cassock and this image reminded the parent of earlier days watching the animated penguin movie called “Happy Feet” with their child. For a brief moment in time, this parent recalled a moment of joy in their life. Joy for them was the memory of sitting beside a healthy, young child and watching an animated movie together.
These little gifts of joy often come after funerals and memorial services when family members recall the happy memories they have shared with their loved ones. Joy is present when we can stop worrying about what other people are thinking or saying about us. Joy is a pure gift from God. Joy cannot be manufactured, or orchestrated through some kind of psychological self-discipline. Joy is something more than a positive attitude. Joy is when your soul is happy.