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Joy in the morning

Can you name three things that bring you joy?

Quickly ... no need to ponder the question too long. Keep it simple. That steamy cup of morning coffee, perhaps? Yesterday’s letter from a long-held friend? Acquisition of a handmade face mask that actually fits comfortably over your nose and does not cause your hearing aids to tumble from your ears when you remove it?

Little things can make a big difference in how you feel and act in a given moment and on a given day. I decided to begin each day by identifying and acknowledging a few small joys that life provides.

A therapist friend (the same one who sent yesterday’s well-received letter) once described the depression she sees in her patients as “absent joy.” That descriptor has stayed with me for years and made me, hopefully, more responsive to changing moods and unsettled feelings in myself and friends/family. Another way of thinking about joy (same friend, different letter) is as “a state of mind and an orientation of the heart.”

These are turbulent times for all of us. And when the smile of a neighbor you meet on your morning dog-walk is camouflaged by the kerchief covering her face and the reaction to encountering anyone at any time of day is that they quickly back away a few feet, or you do ... it takes a toll.

All that said, I offer the following. My late mother did calligraphy and created beautifully rendered script by the poet William Blake. Some of his work is a little dark, but my favorite phrase involved “grabbing joy gently” as it passed by.

There is joy in the Bible (although it is hard to ferret out at times). For example, a verse (James 1:2) says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” You think? How can that possibly be true? Wise men and women schooled in religious text can more clearly explain that verse, but I see it as tied to testing one’s faith and gaining fortitude and patience in the process. Perhaps joy is perched atop fortitude and resilience — or embedded inside it.

My most well-remembered reference to joy in the morning is attributed to a man named Tom Bodett. I think he might be the same Tom Bodett who, years ago, was the voice in the commercial advertising Motel 6. He promoted that particular lodging by saying, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” His authentic and caring tone gives me pleasant recall. Maybe that kind of recall carries its own elements of joy.

But here is something else Tom Bodett offers, and I find it very poignant. It holds promise of less “trial.” And a prediction of better times. I share it with the hope it will resonate with you and affirm the activities of your day:

“They say a person just needs three things to be truly happy in this world ... someone to love, something to do and something to hope for.”

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.