Choose Joy!

One of the best “sermons” I ever heard had to do with joy. It is easy during this time of year to see and feel joy in our hearts, and on the faces of people around us. Why do we only notice this during the holidays? Why do people only show it during the holidays? Well, we may feel it all year – or we hope to – but we don’t always notice it. Perhaps, the fact that it is a societal movement for the “holiday spirit” to be recognized helps, but why only during December?

We have the ability to choose joy. We can make a conscious decision all year long to practice the art of kindness. We can do considerate and charitable things for others. We can change a life, or many lives. We can volunteer, participate and keep connected. The problem is, without it being a part of everyday life, we forget. We get so involved in the drama and stress of our environment that we just don’t think of it.

Sometimes, it takes a reminder from the outside world to pay attention. Sometimes it takes the “season’s greetings” signs and songs to keep us alert. Sometimes, when someone holds the door for us it’s a cue to payback the kindness. We shouldn’t need those reminders though. We have the opportunity while we are making our resolutions for the new year to include things that bring us and others joy.

Here are some ideas to keep joy in our lives:

Take a time-out from materialism and do something spiritual, family-oriented, or non-materialistic this season. All too often we get caught up in the shopping, the endless sales, the “need” to make sure we buy something for everyone, that we lose sight of things that really matter — our friendships, our family, our spirituality, our fellow man (and woman) who may be less fortunate than us. Even in tough economic times (some might say, especially in such times), others need our help even when we feel we have little to offer. Volunteer at a food bank, do something additional for your temple, adopt a family in need this season. If you cut just 10% of your spending on gifts and donated that money to charity (Like the Jewish Pavilion), you’d be surprised at how much a difference such giving would help.

Take a time-out from family arguments, simmering feuds, and unhappy relationships. In an ideal world, we’d be friends with everyone and everyone would be friends with us. But in the real world, we get into disagreements or sometimes full-fledged arguments with others we care about. You always have the opportunity to give something that is priceless — your compassion and forgiveness to those in your life you feel have wronged you in some way.

“No” is not a four-letter word. We’re all human (yes, you too!), and we humans get ourselves into more trouble than you know because we simply don’t know when to say, “Thank you, but no.” I suspect it’s tied closely to guilt, but at some point, the sooner we learn that it’s okay to say “No”, the sooner we’ll feel less stress and anxiety. You can’t do everything, every year. Choose carefully, schedule well, and then say “No” to the rest and you’ll rest better at night.

The last thing I will ask you to think about to keep joy in your life is volunteering for the Jewish Pavilion. We need people to visit residents, help with programs, help with fundraisers, and assist with small tasks. If you have even 1 hour a month to donate, we can find something that will make you feel joy! Happy and Healthy New Year!

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