Think about that thing that you wanted as a kid. I don’t mean the thing you wanted. I mean that thing you desperately wanted; that thing you could absolutely not live without. You know, that thing you would dream about opening right before you fell asleep. You could literally feel the adrenaline-driven, palm-sweatin’ rush of “Ohhhh, yeah baby!” Perhaps you dropped some not-so-subtle hints to the wallet-bearers, or wrote (unashamedly begged) Santa. Then, just to seal the deal, you set about being on your bestest behavior just to get that thing. You might have been told that he sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake. You then realized that he may be checkin’ on your dental hygiene too. So you brushed your teeth twice a day, and then you cleaned your room, followed by taking out the garbage without being asked, and maybe even vacuumed the car. You wanted that thing and you were willing to prove it to the universe.
And then you got that thing!
Remember that feeling? Maybe somebody was slick and put it in a different or larger box just so you wouldn’t guess. Maybe it was outside on your porch with a big fancy bow. Maybe you heard a noise in the other room and that’s when you realized that thing was right around the corner. Nevertheless, there was that one moment when you realized that thing was really yours and it was everything you had dreamed of. You couldn’t jump any higher, squeeze it any tighter, love it any more, or scream loudly enough with delight. Cameras captured the moments you clutched that thing while showing off those meticulously clean teeth as the cherry on the sundae of overwhelming joy.
And maybe, you’ve been on the other end of this season of gift-giving. Perhaps you’ve been the one to find the oversized box, or to keep it stuffed in your trunk, or hidden in a plastic bin marked “Taxes” in the garage. Maybe you have had to save for weeks. Maybe you have had to be the slick thinker with your surprise intentions. Maybe you have been haunting the mailbox to get the credit card bill before anyone else inspects it and figures you out. But just as you were once the person who dreamed of getting that thing, now you are the creator of joy in crafting that experience for someone else. You used to dream about what it would be like to get that thing, and now you can’t wait to see the look on someone else’s face when they get that thing.
This is the wonderful part of our stories of that thing: it’s all about joy. These memories become priceless morsels of unspeakable joy amidst the humdrum tapestry of everyday life. You can recall them as if they happened last week and your heart floods with the emotions that are connected to the “getting that thing” experience. If you were to retell your story, your voice would lift, your eyes would twinkle, and if you have dimples, they might just be merry. Truly it was a time when you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone loved you that much to bring to you that level of joy.
One of my adulthood laments is that this glittery season of goodwill and selflessness always fades by the time the credit card bill arrives a month later. When the North Pole closes for the year and Santa is on his New Year’s diet, we fall back into our regularly scheduled programming of impatience, apathy, over-thinking, and over-sharing. Communication goes back to fifty shades of passive-aggressiveness and we’re back to social media shaming those bad parking attempts and rude behavior. January’s joy becomes obscure and that thing that brought such joy is lost somewhere in pictures on our phones.
But here’s the thing about joy. It’s not that obscure. Think about it for just a second. If you were the one planning, dreaming, and scheming this time around, then you were the screenwriter of someone else’s joy. It’s a pretty cool feeling, isn’t it? You have the ability to bring an undeniable soul-sourced smile to someone’s face. And believe it or not, you have this superpower all the time, not just when wrapping paper and twinkly lights are everywhere. You know the people in your life best. You know what they love, what they need, and what makes them feel joy in their lives. Who could do it better?
Serving up joy does not mean that you have to delve into debt or acquire stealth gift-giving skills. Joy doesn’t have to be that complicated. Surprise your children with hot cocoa with the marshmallows on a cold day. Give your spouse a foot massage just because. Call your parent just to talk. Write a letter or email to a friend. Buy that chicken biscuit for the stranger behind you in the drive-thru. Hand deliver a thank-you note to your child’s teacher, your coworker, or boss. Buy funny socks at the dollar store with your besties and wear them out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. These sweet little gestures remind us all that the simplicities of joy are worth passing on. We will always remember getting that thing. But the greater gift behind that thing was that other thing that lived inside the heart of the person. And that thing, my friends, is called joy.