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Sharing & Spreading Joy

Psalm 4 asks, “Does good even exist anymore?” It's a question that still seems pertinent today. 

And yet, even in the face of that despair, the Psalmist proclaims that Yahweh has filled their heart with joy… "a joy greater than being full of bread and new wine." It’s a joy that wells up from inside, not dependent upon our outside situation or circumstance. It’s the joie de vivre, the exuberant, buoyant joy of living! It is the awe-filled wonder and gratitude of aliveness.

So, what do we do with it when we feel it? Sadly, here’s where the metaphor falls apart. If I’m full of bread and new wine, I’m probably ready for a nap. But truly, being filled with joy, with aliveness, almost demands that we share it. In a poem by Scott Tayler, he writes, 

Joy doesn’t simply arise
It flies.
It flings.
No, it is flung.

Jack Kornfield tells a story about a boy named Jasper who was born with Down syndrome. In his case, however, his parents explained, it should have been called “Up syndrome.” Every morning when he woke up, he rushed into his parents’ bedroom and leaped on them with an enthusiastic “Happy to you morning!” He meets the entire world with his heart outstretched and hugs everyone he can. Parents of similar children warned Jasper’s parents to curb his hugging behavior or he could be the target of molesters. They disagreed, knowing Jasper’s loving nature was his gift.

One day, Jasper and his parents were walking down the street and Jasper got out in front of them. He was almost twelve by then, but still very small. An angry-looking man with tattoos and piercings came toward him, and Jasper’s mom thought, Uh-oh. But it was too late. Jasper looked up, smiled, and threw his arms around the man’s legs, shouting, “Hi there!” The tough guy paused and tousled Jasper’s hair, and then his mom saw this innocent-looking smile come over his tough-guy face. Jasper has done his magic again.

Now it may not be wise for us older folks to randomly attach ourselves to a stranger’s leg and shout, “Hi there!” But there are other ways for us to “fling joy” around. Simply thing like smiling at someone, being kind, paying it forward, sharing your gifts, texting a quick hello and virtual hug.

Here’s another way to share joy… a friend was sharing that when she was moving her parent’s into an assisted living facility she had to help them pare down their house to just what they had room for in their new place. It was very hard on her dad who had a collection of model sports cars that he was very passionate about. She talked to him about all they joy they brought him over the years and encouraged him to think about they joy they could now bring someone else. I wonder if, as we look at the things we have, are there certain things that might bring others joy because they brought us joy for so long?

Sharing joy can also be as simply as letting that joy shine out from you. My dad had a friend at St. Monica’s named Rose. Rose died this week at 97, but every time I met her she looked very elegant in a bright royal blue pantsuit with a rose pinned to her lapel and a warm smile on her lips and in her eyes. It was the type of look that says, I’m so glad to be here with you in this moment.

The Dalai Lama is known for his joy and his cute little laugh. You can even go online and watch video clips of him laughing! When the Dalai Lama offered the solemn Kalachakra teachings at Madison Square Garden, his hosts had put a mattress on his “throne” under brocade and a beautiful Tibetan rug, so he would be comfortable. As he walked up the stairs onto the platform and sat down on the throne amid great gongs and deep, resonant Tibetan chanting, he bounced. Surprised, he smiled and bounced again, and again. There he was, about to give the highest Tibetan teachings on the creation of the cosmos and the release from time, on a throne in front of thousands of people, and he sat there bouncing like a kid. 

The flip side of flinging joy is being willing to catch it when someone else flings. It's too easy to get caught up in our bad days, or our worries, fears, insecurities, and crabbiness, and refuse to embrace the gift of someone else’s joy. And that’s just plain sad. Open to it, allow yourself to be filled by it. Joy – the joie de vivre – aliveness – is meant to be shared and embraced by those it is shared with.

Love & Light!