Ode to Joy

A few weeks ago, I was impressed by a video that went viral. I watch a lot of videos but this one was special. At first glance, it was just a fun little video of a married couple (Will and Monifa) who sang and danced for a Pumpcast News segment from The Tonight Show. As I watched it several more times and started sending it to people I knew, I realized that it was something more. And I wasn’t the only one to notice.

Will was the first one to start singing (Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi) and his enthusiasm was infectious. Although Monifa was laughing hysterically at Will when he was singing, it didn’t take much to convince her to do the same. When she began her song (Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics), it was clear that she was having a great time too. They both were supportive and playful with one another and, despite being surprised at being asked to sing, neither of them seemed too rushed or busy to just stop and enjoy themselves in the moment. I really had fun watching them but it was only when I started reading the comments from other viewers that I got a sense of just how much they connected with people.

People wrote things like, “I wish I were friends with this couple,” “You two are an example of everything that is right,” and “The world needs more people like this!” Throughout all the comments I read, one word kept popping up over and over. What Will and Monifa were demonstrating, the thing that really hooked people, was joy. They not only were feeling joy in singing and dancing, they also were taking joy in each other. I think that one of the reasons people really responded to this is because most of us don’t have nearly enough joy in our lives.

Despite only being three letters, joy is a huge word. Ask people to describe times in which they felt joy and a lot of them will be stumped. And they shouldn’t be. Joy should be an emotion that is central to our existence, yet for many it is not. Everyone wants to feel it but a lot find joy intimidating, probably because it seems too difficult to achieve.

Part of the problem is that while our culture promotes an artificial sense of joy (like the celebrations on New Year’s Eve or the high you get when making a new purchase), we don’t encourage true joy. Thus, a lot of people don’t know how it feels or what to do to make it happen. And the bombastic definitions and descriptions of joy found on the internet do not help. For example, a quick Google search discovered that joy is a feeling of great delight or elation; it fills us with happiness and good will; inspires our creativity; allows us to experience a moment of clarity; and gives us the power, motivation and confidence to conquer a difficult challenge. Wow! That is a lot to try and feel.

Based on all of this, joy seems to be something rapturous, overwhelming even. It’s not seen as tiny, something to be felt in small pieces. Instead joy is an emotion to be anticipated and developed, not a feeling to merely be enjoyed when it happens. But I just don’t believe that is the case. Sure, it’s wonderful when you have a huge rush of joy but it doesn’t have to be like that all the time. Joy can be much smaller, more like a sense of contentment or peace, or even a small burst of excitement.

Joy can be anything we make of it. Joy can be felt in the big moments – like the first glimpse of your new baby, the end of a wedding, or the winning of an award. But it can also be found in the smaller moments as well, like in the sensation of a refreshing breeze, the time spent playing with children, or even in singing at a gas pump. In short, joy shouldn’t be an emotion that is too hard to find; it should be something that we feel, even if for just a small amount of time, every day.

So, what is it we need to do in order to feel joy? First of all, we need to be open and search for opportunities to experience it. Will and Monifa took a regular morning chore (filling their car with gas) and turned it into a joyful situation because they were ready for it. Second, we need some sense of quiet or, if that’s not possible, at least time to slow down. When we’re rushing about, we don’t take the time to feel the wind, examine the clouds or appreciate the antics of animals. If Will and Monifa had been late for work that day, they wouldn’t have taken the time to sing, dance and just enjoy being with each other.

And that’s it, just those two things. It isn’t hard. So, get cracking and start finding your own ode to joy. As Helen Keller said, “Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

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