It never ceases to amaze me that I meet people every day with seemingly a lack of joy in their lives. They drift from one day to the next complaining, aggravated, and bored. I am of the opinion that a status quo life is not a full life lived. Isn’t life meant to be a journey? An exploration? A discovery, learning about yourself and others as you go through an adventure?
Now, you may read this and wonder if I’m an adrenaline junkie, seeking out my next thrill by wild rides and steep jumps. Nope. That isn’t me. I am a joy seeker! I seek out moments of joy in the quiet space of an early morning sunrise or the enjoyment of laughing with my family around the dinner table. Something I was able to discover early in life is the joy in helping others, in being of service to my community.
I’ve always been a seeker of community and had a desire to be a part of something bigger than myself. I found a variety of ways to give my time in support of my school or teachers while I was growing up.
When I was in high school, I heard about a non-profit house that provided a safe place for children living in court-ordered family situations. The organization provided supervised play visits with the child and his or her mom or dad. Screened volunteers would supervise and take notes of the interactions.
As a child of a divorced family where my biological dad chose to leave the day-to-day life of his children, I felt drawn to helping children have a safe space for spending time with their parents. I began spending my Saturdays volunteering with this organization. Looking back, it was probably foundational for my later career life.
I wish you could feel the joy I felt when a child would suddenly, while playing, turn to his or her estranged parent and say, “I love you so much,” or hug the parent in greeting as it had been at least a week since they last saw each other. I truly felt that the giving of my time allowed a family to reconnect and for me, it confirmed a deep need in my soul to serve others.
Later in college, I began volunteering for just about everything under the sun. I soon found myself as an officer or member in many different organizations. I loved the work and it was all good, but here is where I learned a significant lesson: you can’t do it all. There will always be needs in the community, and I alone can’t fix them. A community needs a collective group all working together toward a common goal.
This is the time in my life where I experienced overcommitted joy. I was doing too much. As a natural extrovert, I was restoring my energy through interacting with others, but that can still only be done for so long. I neglected everything close to me in service of everything far from me. Here is where I learned the importance of doing your part and trying your best. Trying your best in any given moment changes based on that moment. Doing your part means doing something, but not doing everything.
In my adulthood, I connected with an organization near and dear to me. It encompassed all my beliefs about being welcoming to everyone, showing love to all, and transforming lives. I found a way to be involved in such a way that I spend a significant amount of time supporting this organization and its initiatives, but I also live the mantra of “do my part.”
Not more than my part, and not less. My part has changed over the years with my knowledge and experience and the evolution of the organization over time. I don’t blindly say yes to everything I’m asked to do. I say no quite a bit, actually. I say yes to what I have thoughtfully considered.
There is a lot of joy to be found in seeing a need and filling a need. I also get joy from modeling what a good citizen looks like to my children. We pay our taxes for the collective good, we vote to express our voice, and we serve others in expectation of nothing returned. Giving and sacrifice is a foundational belief of mine. It is also a balanced joy of living a full life. Go out and try it!