Webster defines “joy” as “a feeling of great happiness; a source or cause of delight”. I imagine we all find joy in many different ways and things. The older I get, the more I seem to find joy in the simplest of things. Watching birds in my bird bath is a very simple pleasure but one that gives me great joy. Some birds will just come for a drink and are fun to watch as they dip their beak into the water then tilt their head back till it runs down their throat. Others will hop right in and immerse themselves in the water while fluttering their wings wildly and splashing about. I can imagine them saying “Ah… this is great…this is great…thank you so much for filling it up!”. I enjoy the squirrels too as they sometimes perform what appear to be death-defying feats in order to plunder my bird feeder.
Sometimes when the weather is nasty, I complain about having a 40 minute commute to work. Most of the time, though, this trip affords me more joy than if I didn’t have such a trek. I am so blessed to live in such a beautiful area and am eager as a kid in a candy shop to spot whatever wildlife, unique trees and stunning landscapes I can on my journey to and from work in the city. I am constantly scanning the tops of electric poles, trees and fields. Last fall I was thrilled to have to come to a complete stop on a little township road to allow an entire family of minks (yes, those cute furry little creatures who unfortunately often end up draped over wealthy ladies at fancy soirees’ !) to slink across the road in front of me. Neither before nor since have I seen anything quite so sweet! After they paraded across, the last one stopped and turned around to look at me as I passed. What great joy to start my day with! I personally view those ‘sightings’ as a gift from God, because He knows how much I dearly love his works of art and he loves me and His Word says he loves to give his children good things. It so happens that my daily journey also takes me close to a large eagle’s nest. I’ve always taken extra delight in capturing a glimpse of the very regal bald eagle. This may sound strange to some of you, but usually weeks or even months will go by and, despite scanning their usual perch and the other trees in the area as I pass, there are no eagles to be seen. After an extended period, I often worry that maybe they got killed or died or just left the area. Sometimes this sadness about the possibility of them being gone seems to strangely coincide with a time in my personal life when I’m struggling with an issue and feeling quite alone in dealing with it. Invariably, that is when I will come upon the eagle’s perch with only a smidgen of hope left that I’ll see one and, VOILA’ …. there he is in all his glory! I don’t believe in coincidence. In my heart of hearts, I always take that beautiful sight as a special message meant to encourage and remind me that, just as with the eagles, even thought I cannot see Him, I shouldn’t become discouraged or give up hope … because He is still there and will help me through whatever challenges I face.
Another simple pleasure that gives me great joy is music. My mother was a musician. From my earliest memories until I left home at 18, she played the piano and sang with her exquisite soprano voice every single morning. I could probably write a book on the many good things I think this did for me, but, suffice it to say, it firmly embedded in my soul a deep love for music. As a child, I took 5 years of piano lessons. In high school I dreamed about the possibility of becoming a concert pianist. Then I left home for college and had no access to a piano, nor time for it and as time went on, life in general took over and my “first love” got rather lost in the shuffle. Fast forward 30 years. Life is vastly different for me now. I have re-discovered my ‘first love’ and can’t tell you how much simple joy I get out of listening to music these days. It has IMMENSE power over me and my mood. Certain songs can immediately transport me to a particular time or place and invoke deep feelings of happiness, youthful energy or great pain and sadness….depending on the original context in which I heard the song. As I’m getting ready for work each morning, I take great pleasure in planning the music that will be the “soundtrack” to that day’s trip to work. I love my bass with a strong beat and I love it LOUD, as this works better than any amount of caffeine for getting me energized for the day! On the return trip home, however, it’s usually the opposite … softer, slower … a little Nora Jones, perhaps. Simple pleasure but GREAT joy!
Finally, I also find great pleasure and joy in the simple act of helping someone else to feel good. I love to give gifts, especially ones I’ve made and I love to give sincere compliments and praise as much as possible. I love to make people laugh and will sometimes go to great lengths to accomplish that, even if it means sacrificing my pride or using self-deprecating humor. I’ve actually done extensive research on the benefits of laughter and found that it truly is very healing …. not just for one’s mental outlook but there is also a scientifically proven physiological component — the mind/body connection. Not long ago I also learned that the simple act of smiling, even if you don’t feel happy or feel like smiling, actually triggers a physiological series of ‘events’ within your body that ultimately makes you feel better and makes you actually WANT to smile. It reminds me of the old saying, just “fake it until you make it”.
So, as you see, pure joy can be easily found in the simplest of pleasures. One only has to live more ‘mindfully’ and stray off the beaten path more often in order to discover the little treasures hidden along the path on this journey we call life.