Ya gotta love the holiday season! Regardless of whose team you play for, or how sacred or secular you choose to be, the final month of the year is all about joy. And heaven knows that we could all use a lot more joy in our lives!
But why aren’t we more joyful? It’s easy to claim that it’s hard (even foolish?) to be joyful when the world is such a dreadful place. How can anyone be joyful in the face of terrorism, climate change, raging partisanship and uncertain economies? Well, it turns out that the secret to joy is simply choosing to be joyful. And there are plenty of role models if you need some coaching.
Take Nelson Mandela. The guy spent 27 years in prison. What did he do when he got out? He worked arm-in-arm with the people who put him there to fix what was wrong with the country; his thoughts on reconciliation, not revenge. Here’s a guy who had plenty to be pissed about, but have you ever seen a picture of him when he wasn’t smiling?
How about Gandhi? He didn’t exactly have it easy either. Born into and living under an oppressive and brutal occupation by the British, he decided to turn logic on its head and fight violence, not with more violence, but with its opposite. His non-violent approach resulted in him taking a lot of flak, but it also led to Indian independence, not to mention successful civil rights movements around the world. Like Mandela, though, just try to find a photo of him where he’s not brimming with joy.
Or Mother Teresa. She hardly spent her life in the lap of luxury. In fact she spent most of it in the gutters and hell-holes of Calcutta, tending to the lowest of the low, in the most decrepit and disgusting conditions imaginable. But find a picture in which she’s not positively glowing? Can’t be done.
I never had the privilege of meeting them in person, but I bet Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammed and all those other greats were total cut-ups. Laughing all the time, joking, enjoying their friends, enjoying life. And, yes, smiling and joyful. Why don’t we ever see pictures of these guys smiling and laughing? Why do we interpret them as being so somber, solemn and serious? I think they would have been a hoot to hang out with! And in the midst of the joy, they’d teach me how to be a better, more joyful person myself.
The angel over Bethlehem was not recorded as saying, “I bring you somber news of great seriousness that should make you all dismal and subdued.” We’re told that it said, “I bring you good news of great joy.” And that message isn’t restricted to the Bible either. You’ll find it in every great, inspiring book we’ve got.
One of the holiday season’s wonderful movies is 2003’s Love Actually. Created by British screenwriter Richard Curtis, it opens with actor Hugh Grant narrating what I think is a joyful sentiment that puts it all in perspective for us.
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love, actually, is all around.