After I moved to metro Atlanta in 1992, I started a new tradition in my family: Christmas Day at the Christmas House. For days in advance I cooked and prepared for an onslaught of friends and relatives who often numbered as high as twenty-five. Time marches on, though, and friends have passed away, family members have other obligations, and children have grown up and lost interest. Last year I changed my party to the day after Christmas, rather than Christmas Day, hoping to earn back some of the people who were unavailable Christmas Day. I did the same this year.
Regardless of my plans, the universe takes its own path. By the end of the evening about twelve friends and family members had dropped in. On the bright side, because the group was small, we all fit in one room, all had seats, and we could have group discussions that are impossible in larger crowds. Even more than usual, my heart swelled with love and pride as I glanced around at the people who took the time to come by for a few hours. I might add that my house is a little out of the way; none of those folks live closer than a half hour, and most live much farther away. Three cousins live in Columbia, but still drove to Atlanta for the day. That’s love. That’s family commitment. Of course I felt love and pride and joy.
Joy. I’ve had discussions with friends about the difference between joy and happiness. My opinion is that happiness is long term, because it dwells within us. We can decide whether to be happy or not, based on our reactions to life. Even the sickest of people can still feel happy for things, events, and people separate from their sickness.
Okay, so happiness is long-term and internal, in my opinion. Joy, however, is caused by external factors, and joy is short-lived, which makes joy an even greater delight. I felt joy most of the day, yesterday, and then when two friends who had said they probably couldn’t make it called to say they were on their way, I experienced joy again. Certainly Christmas can bring joy to children who receive gifts they want. In our family and among my friends, we no longer exchange gifts, but we still give the gift of joy by sharing our time, space, and love.
I hope you felt joy this holiday season, and I hope you always feel happy.