Saturday, December 29, 2012

Aim for joy than just happiness

Christmas is a very special day of the year and this year God has given me a gift that I thought would be worth to share. I experienced once again the truth that there is a big difference between happiness and joy.

Happiness is like the fancy paint of a car; Joy is the engine that takes the car to its destination.

Happiness is superficial, temporary; Joy is supernatural, lasting.
Happiness is an emotion -comes and goes; joy is  a result of a decision, it remains.
Happiness is the wrapper, Joy is the gift.

On Christmas day, my fellow missionaries and I went to a retirement home for the elderly. As missionaries, we know well how it is to be away from our own families and so we decided to share our time with the elderly who may have nobody to share Christmas with. To celebrate Christmas alone can be very lonely and the day could be too long to spend alone and so with our Christmas song sheets,  some percussion instruments, refreshment and cookies on-the-wheel we headed towards our destination.

As we entered the hallway of the building, we started to sing "We wish you a merry Christmas.." to kind a create an atmosphere of joy along those quiet corners of the hallways. We started to knock one door at a time. As soon as the door opened we began singing our "Christmas carols". Our voices might not be that great but that was not a bit of our concern. We were there to bring Christmas to them. It was a joyful sight to see the elderly eyes twinkled with surprise as they opened their doors and saw these young men  singing and bringing snacks to them. They tried to sing with us and clapped as they listened and hummed the melodies of our songs.

One elderly lady, the fourth apartment door that we visited caught my attention and touched my heart. The door was not locked when I knocked and so she let us come in. We were singing our songs as we came in to her room. She was sitting on a recliner chair close to the window. No one was with her just like the others that we visited. Next to her was a night stand full of old pictures and albums.  She had that smile on her face as she looked at us and then she started singing with us. As she was singing she slowly closed her eyes and I saw tears rolled down her cheeks. She was trying not to show it but her tears just continued but then she smiled. She must be about 87-95 years of age. After few songs, we offered her our refreshments and cookies which she graciously accepted. She loved the eggnog more than anything else. After few greetings we sang another Christmas song. As we bid goodbye, she said in her gentle and soft voice  "thank you, thank you. You all are great." I didn't realize that this woman's gentleness and serenity has captured a soft spot in me that I was trying to hide. I was glancing at the pictures, some wedding pictures of her and her husband and some happy memories. She saw me looking at the pictures and she smiled and nodded. I gave her a gentle hug as I tried to evade my tears from showing. I held her frail hands as I said "Merry Christmas." Before we left I went closed by her side and whispered to her, "you are my Christmas gift." She looked at me, and smiled as she said "thank you."  Her name is Frances.

When we are a recipient of something pleasant from someone especially from somebody who means a lot to us or as a result of some events agreeable to us, naturally we are happy. Happiness is an emotion reacting to an event or object. Joy is different, it comes from giving; from letting go a part of one's self for a higher purpose or intention, usually for others. It is a result of a decision, that desire or willingness to give. To let go of a part of us to bring happiness to another person.The more we give without calculating return the more we feel that deeper/interior  joy.

One time I was just clicking the TV remote to check what's interesting to watch. As I browsed the channels, I passed by one wherein a priest was giving a talk. I recognized the priest as so I stopped to that channel. What he said at that moment is still fresh in my memory. He was talking about inner strength and joy. He said, "the saints are the strongest men and women in the world and the most joyful person for they know the gift they received and  they made that decision to share the gift they had to others until they had no more to give." That gift is the knowledge of being so loved by God. And they wanted to make others feel that same love they felt by being a witness of God's love.

We are all "saints in the making". We are capable to give the precious gifts we have - it could be anything time, talent, resources or even our lives for the good of our brothers and sisters out there. There are so many of them. We may not be able to solve all the problems in the world but for those particular persons where we share our lives with and extend our helping hands, we already made a difference in their lives.

To achieve true and pure joy, you need to make a decision... to love until you exhaust all the love you can give. Selfless love is the road to pure joy. Happiness is just the wrapper.... Joy is THE GIFT.

As you give part of yourself  for love of God in the service of others, you will be surprised. Try it.You will not regret it. But the key is ... you have to make a decision.. 

It is still Christmas, you have time.

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