Where’s the Joy?

joyI simultaneously love and hate those moments where God shows me my faults.  Being humbled is not very fun, yet it is a beautiful thing because it creates change in us.  At least, I hope it does for me!  The past couple of weeks have been quite stressful with the last few days of summer winding down and the school year beginning, and I have not always been the most fun to be around.  In fact, I always feel bad for my family during this time because I can definitely be a little short and spaced out because of all of the things on my mind.  As much as I love teaching, the beginning of the year is always such a hard time for me because of the high expectations I put on myself – will my classroom be perfect? Are all of my lessons completely planned out? Is everything organized, cut out, laminated, and filed?  Honestly, I can be quite unrealistic with myself!

Well, I had a “God moment” the other day which was great timing because I needed to be brought down several notches!  After a long day preparing in the classroom, I picked up my children from the sitter’s and we went to a local discount store to find my son’s favorite pancake mix.  Throughout the store, my 23-month-old is yelling at everything he sees and my 5 and 7-year-old are singing and playing in the aisles.  It was not what I needed, but I kept my cool and we approached the check-out.

The clerk behind the counter was in his late 30s/early 40s, and he had a smile on his face while asking me how my day had gone.  Of course, I responded with the typical, “Fine, how are you?” as I put my items on the counter.  Another customer came up behind us – he looked gruff and kind of intimidating – and the clerk said, “Hey, we have your favorite EZ Cheese in the clearance aisle! I know you love it, so I thought I would make sure you knew.” (at this moment I am thinking, EZ cheese?  That is disgusting!). The man behind us said thanks and waved and the clerk continued, “Can you believe this rain?  I can’t complain since I am not outside working today.  Last week was hot and my air conditioner ran out, but now I’m here in this air conditioning and it feels so good!” At this point my daughters embraced each other and started singing  loudly and turning in circles.  I told them to stop, when I looked up and the gruff man behind me smiled kindly and told me that it was ok and that he didn’t mind their singing.  The clerk added, “Yeah, let them express themselves, I love music!  It’s great that they love to sing!”

I left that store quite speechless with the attitude of the clerk, and the misconceptions I had about the man standing behind me.  The positive outlook of the clerk was so amazing – he seemed to find the good in everything around him and he was thoughtful even to people that just pass through during his normal day.  His joy was infectious – I wanted to have that wonderful outlook that he had.  The man behind me looked so rough I didn’t see the good in him until my daughters amused him with their singing.  His face became so peaceful and smooth when he smiled at them – it was like I was looking at the face of Jesus.  It brings me to tears everytime I think about it.

My mind and heart was too wrapped up in my own needs that I didn’t see the beauty in my life – my children being “kids” and bringing smiles and joy to others.  That’s where the humbling began.  Where is my joy?  Why wasn’t I seeking out Jesus and offering up my worries and stresses?

I think the key is finding the positive in the things that seem negative.  Positive people have joy – joy is a virtue that keeps us from shrinking from life, “[it] is caused by love” (St. Thomas Aquinas).  It isn’t always easy to find the positive in things, but I do know that as Christians, it is imperative that we strive for joy because it is the way to discipleship.  Everyone wants to be around a joyful person, even the most wretched (rather they admit it or not) because they want what that person has.

When I look at my life, it is so filled with blessings – the obvious and not-so-obvious.  My humbling experience made me feel like I am so far from heaven, yet it made me that much more grateful for my life and the opportunities God gives me to grow in virtue so that I may become a saint one day!

It is my desire that I can, through my words and actions, be like that clerk, and live like I have hope in my Savior, through whom I can handle anything and see the good in His world.  Who knows, maybe my intentions to be positive will help increase my joy and someday bring others to Christ; can you resist the peace that only He can give?

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