Published in the Rains County Leader on July 25, 2017:
As children, finding joy is as simple as picking a dandelion or coaxing Daddy into being the Tickle Monster for a few minutes. As the years pass, however, joy sometimes becomes more elusive. More joints hurt, more friends develop debilitating or terminal illnesses, and social calendars have more dates for funerals than for weddings. Joy is still possible, but it takes more work, and it sometimes requires an attitude adjustment.
If you’ve spent any time on Facebook, you know it can be a joyless place if you’re not very selective about what you read. Some users post nothing but political tirades and negative news while others give more information than most of us want to know about their long list of medical complaints, medications, and procedures. I’m all for being well informed and also for keeping up with friends and praying for them in their times of need. However, caution is necessary in order to keep all that negativity from sucking all the joy out of life.
Some people have opted out of Facebook altogether, but I’ve chosen a more moderate approach. The first thing I do when I open Facebook is check for new pictures of my grandchildren. After that, I check out my group pages. I belong to several special interest closed groups – my church, a crime readers book club, a couple of authors’ groups, and a couple of women’s groups – and that’s where I spend most of my Facebook time. The last thing I do is do before going on to more productive activities is a quick scan through the general posts for anything that looks joyful. I have one friend who is a stand-up comedienne, and she posts a lot of one-liners that are always good for a laugh. Some of my other favorites are baby videos. Last week I found a couple of winners.
One is of a baby boy who has just learned to vocalize in a very unique way and is very proud of his new ability. He is sitting in his high chair, having a conversation with his dad. The dad says “Boo,” the baby giggles, and then he sucks in air causing a squeaking whistle in his throat. The grin of satisfaction on his face is precious. The second video is a toddler who has found where her mother keeps the snacks. She is busily picking up fruit roll-ups from the floor and stuffing them into her bloomers. She must have quite a haul because she looks like she has a spare tire hidden in her pants. The funniest part is at the end, after she has packed away everything she has found, she pats her stash and does a little hip wiggle to be sure nothing falls out. I’ve watched both videos several times for the pure joy of it.
When I’m not feeling electronic, just looking out into the yard is a good way to lift the spirits, especially this time of year. Several deer wander across our back yard from time to time, and this week we’ve seen several does with their fawns. I love watching them, but my neighbor loves them even more. When I text her with “deer alerts,” she gets so excited that she sends back dozens of emoticons. I’ve heard it said that sharing a joy doubles it, and I believe it.
One last source of joy and laughter that I’ll mention is friends. My brother could always made me laugh when we were kids, and I’m still a pretty easy audience. I was reminded Friday night at Home Group just how much fun it can be to share the kind of laughter that leaves you in tears. During prayer time we discussed the on-going situation some of our members are facing involving a high density chicken farm that is being proposed across the road from their property. This conversation was all that was needed to fire up the lively imagination of one of our more creative friends. After we finished our more serious activities, she entertained us with her impressions of a chicken. There is no way to describe her antics in words, but the laughter was joyful. I was still smiling Sunday morning when she and I were talking to someone at church about the evening. I encouraged her to share her impressions with him, but he wasn’t impressed. He rolled he eyes a bit and said, “Okay,” in that drawn out tone of voice that people use when they don’t get it.
Children find more joy than most adults because they don’t have to “get it” to have fun with a situation. Unfortunately, most of us outgrow the childish wonder that allows us to enjoy life as it happens. When older people rediscover that wonder and joy, society sometimes rolls its eyes and calls it a second childhood. That’s one perspective, but if you adjust your attitude just a bit, you could call it remembering how to find the joy.