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This is what Joy is all about

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Over the past year, my husband, Mark, and I saved and planned a big vacation for our 15th wedding anniversary. It involved a lot of work, including driving 14 hours one- way to drop our children off in Louisiana with family, taking multiple flights to various connecting airports, securing our Covid results, immigration, customs, etc. But the joy of spending a whole week in the Caribbean with time to focus on just the two of us as a married couple made all of the hurdles worth it. This, I thought, is what joy is all about.

When we arrived in St. Lucia, our enthusiastic chauffeur took us on an hour-long drive through the curving mountains (with no sign of guardrails or even traffic laws) and snake- infested rainforests—while we battled the onset of motion sickness. It was a rough go, but we did it. And when we finally got to our resort, I thought, “Ah, this is what joy is all about.”

A couple of days into our trip, Mark and I took an island tour with seven other visitors, piling into the back of an open-top jeep with our guide, a local woman, and our efficient driver. Throughout the day, she kept us laughing with jokes and stories as we navigated through a rainforest and visited a local beach. Then, they took us to a fishing village, the true face of the local people. For there, nestled in between the beautiful resorts, beaches and rainforests, was a modest community. Perhaps modest is too gentle a word. Houses were nailed together with rotting boards, and chickens and hungry dogs roamed the dirt-crusted streets.

But in the midst of poverty, a Catholic choir, donned in bright colors, sang Gospel music as the children of fishing families jumped into the Caribbean. It was a stark contrast: the dilapidated buildings and the happy people. It struck a chord in my heart. This, I thought, is what joy is all about.

On the drive back to our resort, our guide asked if she could share a spiritual story. She explained that many families in St. Lucia collect their drinking water in rain barrels as maintaining enough clean water is essential to survival. One day, her grandmother accidentally drained all of their stored drinking water during a dry season, and they began to despair. Together, their family gathered and prayed to God for a miracle. Out of nowhere, a storm rolled in and dumped so much rain that their water barrel overflowed. As soon as their barrel was full, the rain disappeared completely. Our guide told us it was one the most amazing and miraculous spiritual experiences of her life. As goosebumps raced up and down my arms, I again thought, “This is what joy is all about.”

And that’s when it finally hit me. All of these special, God- given things are what joy is all about: celebrating a marriage milestone, taking a long-planned-for vacation, spending time together as a married couple. But so, too, are the many things we take for granted, like the freedom to gather and pray openly and, yes, even something so basic as clean water.

As you read our “joy issue” this month, I encourage you to meditate on the things you take for granted in life that bring you—and others—joy!

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