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Practice Living with Joy

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The Good Samaritan Home in Haiti houses people who are elderly or have disabilities, and it recently welcomed Darcy. He struggles with mental health challenges, but came to the home because a car ran over his legs, breaking both severely. Thankfully, after several infections and a few operations, Darcy is expected to walk again and leave the home.

Darcy had been active and robust, as evidenced by his strong voice and muscled arms. After hearing his story, I expected to find irritation and sadness when we first met at the home—that couldn’t be further from reality. Expressing gratitude to God for the home and for coverage for his medical needs and expenses, Darcy spoke to me with a positive attitude. He even finds energy and spirit to sing his favorite hymns, much to other residents’ chagrin—Darcy often sings loudly when he can’t sleep at night.

He has a great sense of joy, which is not to be mistaken for happiness. I believe joy is a celebration of life, even in suffering. It’s the way we embrace all things with positivity, good humor and a light heart. Joy is a tremendous gift from God and takes a lot of practice, but once we can fully embrace joy, our burdens become lighter. Two great role models are St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Mary Joseph, the Maryknoll Sisters’ foundress. They inspire me to examine how joyfully (or not) I live my life.

Personally, I could do better at living joyfully. It’s easy to complain after a long day when I just want to go home, but it’s raining really hard so I can’t. It’s easy to feel as if I’m melting in the sun then brush others away to just reach my destination. Since I tend to be an open book, genuine in my actions and words, it’s easy to tell when I’m tired or annoyed. Thus, I avoid social interactions so as to not bring others down. But I could do better. I have to practice breathing and taking in the rain and sun as they are, accepting them not with happiness, but with joy. Feelings are allowed, but it’s important to reorient and let go when the moment calls for it.

Another resident and dear friend, Sauveur, also does a great job at living joyfully. Generally quiet, he welcomes me warmly with a hug and listens with a smile. He is suffering and still pretty young, yet he always has time to help others. The women in the kitchen and my co-workers at Grepen also share joy, often greeting me with a boisterous “Bonjou!” and asking how I am. There is joy in the way Haitians joke with each other and inject energy into their words, confident and unabashed.

Making efforts toward positivity can create real positivity and lighten the burden. It is sometimes a struggle to practice joy in Haiti because it is hot and many go without. However, that is what makes joy all the more beautiful. It shines through the suffering. Joy is greater than happiness. The feeling of being happy comes and goes, but joy can last. You can be unhappy and still be joyful. With joy, unhappiness might fade into something better, something more beautiful and lasting.

Jillian Foster is a Maryknoll Lay Missioner from Loveland, OH. In 2018, she graduated from the University of Dayton with a BA in Human Rights and minors in Religious Studies, Sustainability and Computer Science. From 2018-2019 Foster served with FrancisCorps in Syracuse, NY, as an assistant in a L’Arche community. She underwent orientation for Maryknoll Lay Missioners at the end of 2019 and entered into mission in Gros Morne, Haiti, in January 2020.

In Haiti, Foster works in several areas, including a tree nursery and mountaintop garden, teaching alternative agricultural techniques to local farmers. She also works at Maison Bon Samaritain (Home of the Good Samaritan).

This article appeared in the November 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

 

 

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