Like most everyone else, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the death, injuries, and massive destruction left by the late-season outbreak of strong tornadoes that hit the country’s midsection like a gut punch recently.
Given this and other tragic global current events, how can we be joyous now? The answer is both easy and hard.
This family of tornadoes brought sorrow to innocent people. Survivors were thankful to be alive. Many people lost everything, and dozens died.
As I viewed the video of the immediate aftermath of the tornadoes, one clip particularly caught my attention. A first responder walked into a heavily-damaged nursing home where one person died from the tornado strike.
As the firefighter waded through inches of water in the dark, he passed several elderly nursing home residents sitting in their wheelchairs waiting for help. More than one of the residents thanked the firefighter for his assistance.
I was amazed. I figured those poor folks would be in shock and confused. Some probably were. But a few chose to express their thanks and joy for help despite their dire circumstances.
Not everyone can be joyous in this holiday season. Some feel alone. Some are homeless, cold, separated from family, while others mourn the loss of loved ones.
Our family knows those feelings all too well. My wife’s father died just before Christmas in 2001, and eight years later, I lost my father on December 21.
At Dad’s memorial service, I told those in attendance not to be sad for us. Dad loved Christmas and that there was no better time for him to pass on. He would have loved the festive decorations of the church.
During calling hours before the service, friends, family, and acquaintances shared their condolences and heartfelt stories of knowing our father. I remember one young man in particular.
The youngster came with his grandparents to express both his gratitude and sorrow. The young man remembered our father because Dad had shown him his arrowhead collection. That lasting impression exemplified our father’s love for life and learning.
How could we be sad at that? We couldn’t be, of course.
We loved our quirky, gregarious father, and we loved that others had opportunities to experience our father’s wide range of interests and joy for life. The fact that so many took time out of their holiday celebrations and ventured out in the snow and cold to be with us spoke volumes.
Another recollection of joy experienced at a stressful time was at the first fire I responded to as a volunteer firefighter in Ohio’s Amish country. A chimney fire had spread into the attic of a century-old Amish farmhouse. At the end of a 30-foot ladder, I sprayed water onto the fire through a small attic window.
With the flames under control, I looked down to the front yard, and I couldn’t believe the unfolding scene. Scores of people, primarily Amish, rushed in and out of the house, hauling out precious family heirlooms, furniture, dishes, and other items.
Several ladies and teenage girls already had washed some of the family’s clothes and hung them on the laundry line. Talk about expressing joy in the face of despair.
That is the way life is, isn’t it? When we are down and out for whatever reason, joy reaches in and touches our heart and soul and gives us hope.
We can choose to be joyful even in the face of death and terror. At every opportunity, be the joy.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2021
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