I’m baaaaack! And with much to say! Grab a snack.
It’s been an active few months in my world. Went to London to see the Queen…Ok I lied. It was the princess, my daughter, who goes to school there! Then back home to pack up our house which we’ve leased out for a few months and move way out here to Zuma Beach. Zuma can be described as the un-chic end of Malibu. And that’s perfect for me.
Sitting outside hitting these keys I hear horses, what do we call horse speaking, neighing, and birds gossiping and it is sublime.
My husband says I write about God to much. I say, not enough and want to add that this house out here is a God- send.
What I’ve been wanting to write about is joy.
How crazy is that in light of the violence in Charleston last week, joy seems to be an odd subject, but please hang in here with me.
Actually with everything that’s going on in the world, joy seems to be the last thing on anyone’s mind, but again, ride with me for a while.
Several months ago I went to a church service to hear one of my favorite preachers, Rev. John Cager. Seriously one of the smartest and most knowledgeable people I know. I always know his sermons will inspire me and he never fails to deliver.
This particular Sunday he talked about how to live a righteous life. He listed the steps, small and simple indeed, to living a good God filled life. Last but not least on his short list was “be joyful.” He went on to say that it is so easy to forget that we are commanded in the bible to be joyful. Well taking it out of the bible for all of my atheist friends and family, let’s dissect joy for a moment.
How do you feel in the presence of someone joyful? Good, huh? It’s uplifting, isn’t it, to be with someone truly joyful.
How do you feel when you are with a downer…someone who always sees the glass as half empty ?
When you are in the company of someone joyful it’s infectious. Their smile , their enthusiasm , can make us forget that lousy phone call we just had, or the plumbing that has to be fixed. Even for a moment or so, we are taken to a higher plane.
Think about it for a sec, can’t you just feel your heart opening in the presence of a joyful person while in the presence of negativity it closes.
Believe me, guys, I am no Pollyanna. Years ago I was on a meditation retreat with a large group and there was an expression for those individuals who meditated all day and seemed to float instead of walk. Blank look , fixed smile, everything was groovy but they looked slightly pasty and embalmed. You can image, 1970, flowing dresses, love beads, you get the pic. “Bliss ninnies.” They were the bliss ninnies who were so involved in achieving higher consciousness, “cosmic consciousness, that they were no practical good to themselves or anyone else. This is not the joy I’m talking about, and I ain’t no bliss ninnie!
Believing as I do that it is important to allow ourselves to feel true emotions, anger at injustice, grief and sadness at loss, I’m not saying to pretend those don’t exist. But don’t get stuck there. Don’t make that anger or sadness your calling card. Joy is a choice. Looking for the joy is a choice. Finding your joy so that it can open your heart, nurtures you, enables you to deal with life and spread light where there’s darkness.
Last Sunday which was my last day of a 5 day vacation on Fripp Island in South Carolina with my daughter Siena, her friend, Faith, and Faith’s mother Joan, we debated going to the church in Charleston to be with the people there. We decided that it would be too hard to navigate traffic and we might miss our planes home. Instead we decided to go to the 10 am service at Bethesda Christian Fellowship on St. Helena Island to pray with the people there.
As you would imagine the sermon centered around the tragedy at the AME church in Charleston. The pastor spoke of forgiveness. He told the congregation that what happened wasn’t about black or white but about evil. But what he spoke about mainly was about our reasonability to, in his words, preach to each other. He called for parents to preach to their children. He called upon friends to preach to friends. Neighbors to preach to neighbors.
As he was well schooled in the art of black ministering, he had it down good. Every few sentences he would get low, almost to a whisper, so we’d have to lean in to listen and then he’d shout, “PREACH!”
Well, don’t we all just hate being preached to? Seriously.
“Don’t preach to me, Mom” How many times has my daughter said that to me. “Don’t preach to me,” is a sentence I’ve heard many times. (Truth is, I’ve a natural proclivity towards it.)
So we shut up. We don’t preach. We keep it cool.
So who, if not me, talks to her about right and wrong and personal ethics? Since preaching is so last century, who talks to any of them, to any of us, about moral reasonability?
Do we leave it to U Tube? To Facebook?
Who speaks about the things we want them to care about, and the ways we need to care for each other and the planet if we are too cool to preach.
Since I’m getting too old to care about being cool, I’m gonna do what the man says and preach.
Find your joy, People! Find it and infect others with it. Joyful we are better parents, spouses, co- workers and friends.
Going to a doctor who is joyful would make me feel a hell of a lot better than going to Dr. Misery Guts! Having a co worker walk into the office joyful perks the place up a bit while a co- worker who walks in with the weight of the world on his or her shoulders and a scowl on the face can do the opposite.
Maybe a better word to use if preach turns you off is remind. I think we need to remind each other of who we are in our hearts, and of what on some deep level most of us know.
Remind each other to be joyful.
True story: I have a friend who is a very attractive woman in her late 60’s. Whenever I see her we hug and a) I always feel I could hug her a lot longer, and b) always wish I dressed like her. I’m still the tomboy of my teens in my jeans or khaki pants who feels like I’m playing dress up in heels and a dress.
My friend’s parents might have been good people, but they weren’t happy with themselves so they looked to my friend, their daughter, to be perfect. Nothing else was acceptable to them. She got love, attention, and validation only for looking and acting like the perfect reflections they needed.
Recently my friend shared with me how looking at a picture of herself dancing with her adorable 3 year old grandchild made her sad. What she saw was not “perfect.” Her body was thick, her hair looked thinner, the woman in the photo, no longer 20 and trim, showed signs of age. Looking at the photo brought her no joy at all but rather, disgust.
If you and I looked at the photo I can and will bet the farm we would have seen a wonderful picture of a beautiful woman delighting in a moment with a beautiful child. We would have had a peek into the good life straight out of Town and Country.
It may even have brought us joy, this photo. But not my friend.
She is still looking through her parents damaged eyes.
So as her friend, someone who looks at her objectively and loves her, should I, as the saying goes, “tell it”? Should I tell her, preach to her, remind her of who she really is , so that she might hear it and allow herself joy when she looks at that photo.
What do you think?
Also this; according to Christine Porath, associate professor at Georgetown University‘s Mc Donough School of Business, being nice and acting kindly, can not be over rated.
In her article in last Sunday’s NYT’s ( Sun 7/20) Review section titled No Time to Be Nice, she points out all of the ill effects being rude or unkind has in the work place and in society. From lower productivity to ill health, being rude and nasty is causing damage on all fronts.
So if you are more prone to taking things in from the New York Times, rather than from Pastor Doe in South Carolina, or Pastor Cager in LA, please give this a read.
Sharing and caring about my latest JOY; Gullah Art. Last weeks trip to Fripp Island, SC brought me soooo much joy (and great sadness as well, believe me) but one particular element of joy is my new found love of the art made by local artists. Some call it “folk art” but the term “Gullah” represents the indigenous people of the region, descendents of slaves and early African Americans who settled in that area of South Carolina.
To me, this art, with its bold colors and rich textures, represents the vibrant spirit and joyful, hope filled nature of the people.
It gives me great joy to share these pictures with you!
In closing I want to share something simple and profound I did last night.
Instead of having a full choir practice last night, my choir was invited downstairs to the plaza level to join in a prayer group to mark the one week anniversary of the shootings in Charleston. To pray about it and all of its ramifications and consequences.
There were 101 people in the room and we participated in a ritual begun in the Methodist church back in the 1700’s called a “Love Feast”
We made a huge semi circle lining the walls and everyone was handed a small cup filled with pieces of bread. We were then asked to follow the person to our right while the person at the front of the semi circle turned in to the person on his left , holding out his cup of bread for that person to take a piece. Then the person offered him a piece of bread from his cup. We were instructed to shake hands and say hello. This way we all moved taking a piece of bread and receiving one and making contact with another person. Some people hugged instead of shaking hands. Many people said “May your cup always be full” instead of hello. Since I had been away from choir for almost two months some people hugged me and said, “It’s good to have you back.”
As the line made its way around the room I felt a flush of love spread through my body.
At the end all of the bread from all of the small cups was poured into two giant bowls which were taken outside to feed the birds.
So here are the two glorious take -aways from that exercise;
First, the pastor said, “do you see how even though we all only have a little, when we share, everyone gets something and there is more than enough for everyone.”
And then he pointed out that this, this exercise in connecting, in sharing, is how we come together as a community to rebuild community and to heal.
I got it. I left with joy in my heart and I wasn’t the only one.