Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Day I Found Joy

We just moved into a new house over the weekend. The person who lived in the house prior to us subscribed to Good Housekeeping magazine. As I checked the mail for the first time, I was excited to find this delightful treat of a magazine- which I usually do not read.

The front cover caught my eye. One of the cover stories read: 7 Things ANYONE Can Do to Be Happy. As I flipped through the pages, I found the story. The quick read tells it's readers that to be happy one should:

  • Appreciate significant others
  • Be deliberately grateful for others
  • Take a spiritual break (gives the example: deep breathing)
  • Eat chocolate
  • Set a bedtime for electronics
  • Befriend themselves
  • Get fitter in 40 seconds
None of these ideas are bad ideas. Relationships, exercise, gratefulness, deep breathing, and loving ourselves can bring us happiness. But when I look deeper into the meaning of happiness, I discover that happiness is not exactly what I am looking for. Happiness does not last over time. It comes and goes. 

My years in junior high and high school were spent searching for happiness. I tried to eat right, exercise, and look nice. None of which are bad things at all, but they didn't bring me lasting happiness. 

Near the end of my high school career I volunteered at an overnight camp for children with cerebral palsy. I was assigned a specific camper to take care of throughout the week. She was a 10 years old girl, who was significantly developmentally delayed, had little speech, was unable to walk, and needed help showering, toileting and eating. The girl was amazingly delightful to be around. She always smiled and thanked me for everything I did. 

The second to the last day of camp was the 4th of July. I pushed my camper outside to a large field where we had planned to watch the fireworks.  Many of the other volunteers where helping their campers get out of their chairs to sit down on the grass. I decided to do the same. The sky was starting to get dark around us and it was a little difficult to see. 

A few moments after I had helped her down to the grass and propped her into a sitting position, she started to scream. I had no idea what happened. The poor girl was unable to verbalize the problem to me. Then I noticed hundreds of ants crawling on and around her. I had unknowingly sat her in a fire ant pile! 

Immediately I called for the counselor, who was the head of my cabin. We picked her up and carried her to the nearby shower. I hopped in the shower with all my clothes on. She sat, naked, in my lap as myself and the other counselor washed away all the ants. 

 As the water soaked all my clothes I couldn't help but feel horrible! I couldn't believe all the pain I had caused this girl, when I was supposed to be taking care of her. Then she stopped crying and smiled at me. She said, "tate you, just a stake". She didn't care that it was my fault, she only cared that I helped make her feel better. She trusted me and knew I had not intended to cause her any pain.

Then she gave me an enormous hug and pooped on me. Myself and the other counselor laughed so hard we cried. Then I thought to myself, "This is joy". 

I am not sure at what point sitting in a shower fully clothed, soaking wet with another person's poop on me became one of the most joyful moments in my life, but it did. 

That day I discovered where true joy comes from. It doesn't come from looking great or eating better. The joy in my life comes from living beyond myself. It comes from living for others, which in turn is living for God.

It is true joy that can sustain a person, even in the messiest of times. With joy, the quest for happiness diminishes. We can find joy in each and every person we help. 

Where do you find joy in your everyday life?  


  1. Beautiful post, Mama Leigh...and so inspiring that you as a young woman realize that what brings true joy cannot be found within the pages of a magazine, as society would have us believe. That gives me hope for the future! : )

  2. Just beautiful! I'm sure we were both led to OT by the immense joy we get from living for others! Material things can only cause so much happiness.

  3. Oh how I love love love this!!! I can feel your joy!! Thank you so much for linking up!