by Father Mark Goldasich
I have a confession to make: I have a girlfriend.
She moved in a few months ago to the condo next door. Although standoffish at first, now she can’t contain her excitement whenever she sees me.
In fact, as soon as my car turns the corner, she stops whatever she’s doing to run over to me. Sometimes she gets so excited that she almost hyperventilates. And she’s not shy at all about her public displays of affection toward me.
By the way, her name is Zelda . . . and she walks on four legs because she’s a dog. Her owners aren’t sure why she took to me so quickly — I’ve never even given her any treats — but she and I have become best buds.
I can’t describe how much joy it brings me to see her and bask in her enthusiastic and undivided attention.
One of the popular buzz phrases now is: Does it spark joy? That question is asked by the bubbly Japanese organizer and TV personality Marie Kondo in her book “Spark Joy.”
In helping people to “tidy up” their homes, she encourages her clients to hold each possession — one at a time — in both hands and “pay close attention to how your body responds when you do this. When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising. . . . Keep only those things that bring you joy.”
I don’t know about you, but I think that the world could use a good spark of joy. It’s sad that we haven’t changed much since the days of St. Paul, who warned in last Sunday’s second reading: “But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal 5:15).
But how do we go about sparking joy? Although Marie Kondo is onto something regarding our possessions, I wouldn’t start there.
Instead, I’d suggest we look for ways to spark joy in our day-to-day living, starting with our own heart. Venita Hampton Wright, in “Simple Acts of Moving Forward: 60 Suggestions for Getting Unstuck,” devotes the last section of her book to joy.
Her suggestions are wonderful ways to free ourselves from the muck of hopelessness, division and nastiness and move forward into a life of joyfulness, compassion and gratitude.
Here are some of her recommendations for rediscovering joy:
• Sing a song. Don’t just listen to music, belt out a song and, even better, dance along with it.
• Celebrate yourself when you’ve done a great job at something. Raise a toast to a job well done.
• Play in the dirt. Do some gardening, sit on the grass in a park or take a nature hike. Reconnect with the ground you walk upon and rely on.
• Enjoy some tasty, good food. Forget about the calories for this one meal.
• Laugh out loud. If you need a start, search YouTube for “guy with homemade firework.”
Lastly, find joy in your faith. All too often our experience mirrors that of this little story:
One Sunday morning, little Alex stared at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of his parish. The 7-year-old had been gazing at it for some time, so Father McGhee walked up, stood beside the boy and said, “Good morning, Alex.”
“Good morning, Father,” the kid replied, and, focusing on the plaque, asked, “What is this?”
“Well, all of these people have died in the service,” said the priest.
After standing together quietly for some time, Alex whispered, “Which service? The 8 or 10:30?” (Adapted from “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof)
If your recent experiences of prayer or faith have been a little deadly, I’d love to give you some hints on how to rediscover joy there.
Unfortunately, I don’t have time now, because I hear my girl Zelda calling!