Finders, Keepers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

Finders, Keepers

Sixty-eight-year-old Ella found it as a volunteer in the newborn nursery at her local hospital: fulfillment cuddling her special charge, a new-to-this-Earth preemie whose downy delicacy made her wonder at the fragileness of life.

Up to her elbows in mud, Cassandra noticed it each evening when she straddled her potter’s wheel: mindless ecstasy in the art of shaping objects of beauty. A quiet bliss in the act of creation itself.

Rebellious and edgy, Natasha felt it seep into her consciousness during her court-mandated community service: self-satisfaction in a job well done. A sense of pride she’d never before encountered in her thirteen years.

Ken caught it each time he exchanged his Wall Street suit for his Scout-leader shirt: jubilation in the act of pitching camp that he rarely felt on the trading floor. An exuberance as each of his charges mastered a new skill, earned a higher rank and inched a step closer to moral manhood.

José, fresh from massage school, discovered it at the feet of an elderly client: gratification—and humility—as he kneaded out knots and rubbed her coarse calluses, as he felt her pain-wracked body ease, one tensed muscle after another.

The entire Price family—all eight of them—encountered it the year they “gave away” Christmas: an elation, they agreed, greater than any they would have felt had they kept all those gifts for themselves.

So what exactly was it that made these human hearts sing?

Joy. A virtue all of us desire, most of us seek, and each of us would like to claim.

Joy. Such a small, unassuming word—only three letters long— yet often elusive, teasing and winking just beyond our reach.

Joy. What is it? Where can we find it? And . . . how can we keep it?

A veteran fisherman friend put it this way: “Joy works like the bobber on my line; it keeps me from sinking too low.” That definition is as plausible and accurate as any a scientist could contrive.

Although we might not be able to easily explain the sensation of joy, we’ve all witnessed it and—if we’re fortunate—experienced it: a kind of happiness-in-action. Sometimes it arrives carbonated— playful, positive and bubbling with festivity. Often, we feel it sneak in—buttoned-up, quiet, satisfying, poignant. And then there’s the most expansive brand—with a label that reads joie de vivre—that comes bundled with restless curiosity, an appetite for life and a passion for discovery.

No matter how it’s packaged, joy is a love song to life. Its lilting melody weaves a harmonious medley of giving, doing, having, being, experiencing and trying. It resonates on notes of optimism, geniality and delight. It feeds your soul.

You’ll recognize joy—the famed bluebird of happiness—when you invite it in and offer it a shoulder to perch on.

You can discover it through sacrifice and service or in creativity and purpose. You can find it in tender moments and in exhilarating events. You might recognize it in the promise of a day’s dawning or the satisfaction of twilight’s final nod.

But is it possible to hold on to that sense of joy? Of course. Although joy is often described as fleeting, it is possible to create it again and again. George Bernard Shaw once proclaimed, “The joy in life is to be used for a purpose. And I want to be used up when I die.”

So invest yourself in a purpose this holiday season: your time, your energy, your talents, your emotions. Spend yourself freely . . . and discover joy.

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