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What brings you comfort and joy?

Where is your comfort and joy? I’m thinking about the Christmas carol that ends with “glad tidings of ”

It’s an important query, especially at this time of year. I have tested the question on a few people. There are always some uncomfortable and perplexed looks. I think a couple of folks thought I misplaced an item and was asking for their help in finding it. I got a lengthy narrative on the nature of happiness from one talkative soul and another (lovely) person broke into her own melodious song.

Try this. “Comfort” is when you really need to talk about an issue important to you and the person you are in conversation with listens attentively to your every word.

“Joy” comes when you’re the person doing the listening and you hear words that fill your heart.

I receive comfort from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words, “Earth is crammed with heaven.” I recall it being used in a Sunday sermon years ago followed by a phrase that stayed with me, “Stop and take off your shoes. God is about to speak.”

I grew up in a church-going family, the granddaughter of a Lutheran minister. I have lapses of active faith and am not always in a church pew on Sunday morning, but I hold close my belief in God. It gives me comfort in difficult situations. My husband grew up in a Catholic household. As difficult situations present themselves, I think he finds a greater comfort in my love and caregiving than he does a Catholic mass. But I have witnessed the quiet joy in his eyes when he attends one.

My sister converted to Judaism in her 20s and will celebrate Hanukkah with her family for perhaps the 40th time in a few weeks. She has four amazing children and some of them will join the menorah-lighting tradition and some will not. I have an old and dear friend, without a proclaimed faith, who has immersed herself in learning about Buddhism. I am eager to talk with her. I once had occasion to spend time with several Buddhist monks. Their saffron-colored robes and meditative ways comforted me. They are incredible listeners who adhere to simple principles of self-discipline and good works. As I understood their faith, they do not see it as “God” who responds to them when they kneel, shoeless, before their Buddha-image shrines, but something else wondrous happens and they are comforted.

So, I say again. Where is your comfort and joy? I ask you to be thoughtfully contemplative about that question over the next few weeks and into the coming year. Find your faith in self — or in a higher power — and use it to rise above situational negativism and political turmoil.

Explore your own path (joy)fully. Consider the comfort you get from loving friends and family, the joyous connection that occurs when one person speaks authentically, and the other person listens responsively. Be you own beacon of hope.

Let it be true, Earth is, indeed, crammed with heaven.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharon@rbtrv.org.