A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine is today’s message from the Catholic Medical Mission Board.
How do we support the joy in another’s heart?
How do we support the joy in our own?
How often do we look for the ‘catch’, for some reason to distrust joyfulness? How often do we respond to another’s joy with dismay, distrust, disrespect? How often with an answering joy?
When we are unable to answer joy with joy, what is our reason? Do we plead the Johnny Cash defense? In that old country anthem, Man in Black, Johnny sings all the reasons he wears black, concluding that we need reminding of those less blessed, and appointing himself a bearer of witness and of pain on their behalf.
If everyone took that on, what would happen? If we all declared for those in pain, those suffering injustice, those upon whose suffering our material wellbeing rides?
One risk might be that we’d all become tyrants, invested in ourselves as messenger rather than in the message – Twitter, anyone?
Another risk is that we mistake identifying with pain for doing anything to alleviate it.
And finally, we rob ourselves of energy, of our birthright of joy, and of the good heart that takes joy in positive changes.
I remember Mom, after Dad died, subsuming her sadness in care for her kids. When my elder brother died a year later, she became, for a time, so grief-burdened and afraid that it seemed her every conversation was born out of terror that inevitably, there was more loss to come. In the country way, she was strong; but it took a while for her to reclaim, for herself, the right to be joyful, the responsibility to let her children make our way, however we managed, and to take some space and time for herself.
For her, that time was in the bush, picking berries, picking mushrooms, camping. She loved the wilderness, and walked unafraid. Asked if she didn’t fear bears, for instance, she replied that no, her husband’s spirit walked with her. It’s true, she married a bear clan man.
I used to grieve that she didn’t mourn him more, out loud. So, when a dear friend shared the memory of that exchange with me, my own grief was lightened. I understood, she paid tribute to the best of him, by enjoying those pleasures that require love and respect for, not fear of, bears and their kind. She went out to the bush and lifted up her heart.
It seems a sacred duty, to remember to do what brings us joy, not despite, but in honour of those we miss, those we’ve lost, those who suffer. There is a world of joy all around us, and that is a medicine to serve, too, to walk in the light of joy and call, more and more, what is right and beautiful, and share that with those for whom we walk.
If you like these posts, please also consider donating, in the memory of Albina Sewell, to Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton; her chosen charity for memorials is not religiously affiliated, but serves all children.