This morning I woke up early enough (and the sky was gray enough) that I got to enjoy the lighted Christmas tree that we have put up behind our house. It creates a sweet, holiday vignette from my chair in the sunroom, and it is one of the rare (but increasing number of) things that fills my heart with childlike joy.
The tree itself couldn’t be a simpler thing — concentric rings of green metal attached by painted green chain, one to another, and strung with traditional, multi-colored Christmas lights — and I suspect it’s simplicity is also its conduit for joy. There is no fuss or to-do surrounding our little Christmas tree on the hill, with the possible exception of the moment in the shop when Dean checks the lights before he brings it out to install it. Over-all, though, setting up this twinkling bit of holiday cheer is one of the most straight-forward, simple-concept things we do to prepare for Christmas. For relatively minor effort, the reward is pure joy; and, again, I believe there is a strong correlation between those two elements.
Consider this: when a long, arduous project, fraught with complications finally comes to fruition we might say we feel joy — but isn’t it really relief we feel at that point? I suspect what we think of as joy (even an event producing “tears of joy”) is often a moment of release of the weight of potential failure that had loomed heavily. This just occurs to me at this writing, but the examples my mind is producing to test this theory are (probably not surprisingly) confirming it: the joy of seeing a loved one after a long absence, isn’t that really relief that we do get to see them again? The joy of presenting the holiday meal of our dreams to our guests, isn’t that relief, as well, that we didn’t embarrass ourselves? You get the idea.
The distinction I’m trying to highlight is childlike joy as separate from other instances of joy we might feel. Childlike joy comes as moments of unexpected wonder, when we let our hearts be overwhelmed with the simplest thing, and we are not ashamed to express that something so simple has had a profound effect at the core of who we are. Expressing childlike joy puts us at risk of being judged as child-ish, so we may have even trained ourselves to suppress feeling (anything) with such abandon; but to deny such a profound feeling is to deny the existence of a piece of the soul our creator gave us — the part that takes great joy in seeing a single, lighted Christmas tree on and otherwise unadorned hillside.
What small thing that you don’t think other people would understand brings you child-like joy? Spend a couple of minutes reflecting on your answer and notice how your body feels when you think about it. If you haven’t told anyone else about it, why not?