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A friend recently shared a book with me that she had really enjoyed. She added a caveat that it was a story based on joy, so perhaps not an appropriate choice with everything going on in the world right now. I was excited to share, in my less-than-eloquent manner, what has taken me a lifetime to understand: We seek happiness, but happiness is fleeting. Joy, however, is that deeper, unexplainable feeling that sustains us and brings us hope. So, even in the midst of pain, turmoil, and tragedy, joy can remain. I think God knew we needed that.

My sister and I inherited a large collection of letter openers, and I have found joy in sharing some of them through an online “shop.” We debated for years as to the best way to respectfully handle this wonderful collection, for which neither of us inherited the same passion. While our vision was that a person would magically appear and offer us a small fortune for all of them, it became evident it would not happen that way. We heard from some who would be willing to “take it off our hands” for a small sum. After going through and sorting them, remembering the stories and the fact that my sister and I actually considered many of them to be our “toys” growing up, it just didn’t seem right. And, it certainly wasn’t an offer we couldn’t refuse, anyway.

Patience is not one of my virtues. In fact, it’s not even in the top 5. The slower, more involved way of dealing with this collection - carefully packaging and mailing each one that is requested - requires a lot of time and patience. But the joy comes from knowing the person placing the order is interested in that particular piece. For whatever reason, they are drawn to it. I love thinking about the joy that would bring our parents that someone else shares their passion. I take the time to hold each letter opener as I imagine its history and what caused our parents to select that particular one, and then gently wrap it with bubble wrap and tissue and head to the post office.

This whole process seems reverent to me, somehow. But the part that is least reverent and satisfying is the long, long line I insist on waiting in to get personal attention, verify the shipping, and obtain the tracking number. I have yet to figure out a time or day when I can walk in and be near the front of the line and zip right through the process. Instead, it is a very long wait standing beside and listening to many disgruntled customers. The first few times, I thought I was going to lose it. Why weren’t these people prepared? Why did they not have their packages ready to go? Why didn’t they find the answers to their questions before they showed up at the window? And after being reminded of the requirement to wear masks in the lobby, many customers became so angry I feared the rest of us might be in danger.

Then, over time, something changed. While frustrated at times with the slow speed at which these customers were being helped, I started to notice the patience each of the workers had as they helped each customer. They, too, saw the long line of impatient customers waiting and glaring, but it didn’t affect the kind and patient way they dealt with us - giving each of us the special attention we felt we deserved.

One particularly busy day at the post office, I took my usual place just inside the door and removed my phone from my pocket to help pass the time. I looked up when a man hurriedly came through the door, passed all the people in line, and rushed up to the counter. He was holding a beautiful, huge bouquet of roses. I could only hear some of what he was saying to the woman behind the counter; but basically, he wanted to thank her for the time she had recently spent helping him. The words he spoke loudly and clearly enough for all to hear were, “Most people wouldn’t have taken the time to help an older guy like me get everything right, but you did. And you’ll never know the impact it had on me. Thank you.” Wow. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. This man’s expression of gratitude had made an impact on all of us. And suddenly people in the line were kinder to each other. We felt like hugging the man, hugging the employee, hugging each other.

That’s joy, my friends. We weren’t happy to still be in that long line; and the interruption, though beautiful, slowed things down even more. But we felt joy from seeing and experiencing this act of kindness and love that you just can’t express in words. And, just maybe some of the people left there wanting to share joy and an act of kindness with someone else.

I belong to a group called Holy Mischief, whose sole purpose is encouraging others to spread love and random acts of kindness as often as possible, in all situations. It is such a joyful experience to surprise someone with a small gift, often anonymously, or to write a note to someone letting them know how special they may be to you and others. It’s like Christmas when the giver is really the one who receives the gift.

I believe that God feels this way when we get excited about the gifts God shares with us unconditionally, and that we in turn want to share with others.

I have challenged myself to spread joy every chance I get now, and it’s the happiest I’ve ever been. As I stood in line today, I once again saw the discouraged faces and heard the familiar words: I have to wear a mask? I don’t have one! I don’t have time for this!

I have to pay for tape to close my package? You don’t provide that??

I may stock my purse with a few disposable masks and a small roll of packing tape before my next visit, and who knows? This may spread faster than a virus! We all need to share and receive a smile and some JOY!

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