This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have Ali Campbell from ‘The Resource’.
“Find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss joy is to miss all.” Robert Louis Stevenson
My eldest daughter, Hannah, was 4. It was a hot day in June and she begged me for a ride on the bike. At this time, although going great guns on a tricycle, “a ride on the bike” meant sitting behind me on a seat attachment while I pedalled.
We set off. Heading out of our road and off in to Lindfield, it was pretty much downhill all the way. There were squeals from behind me as we freewheeled our way to the park. We chained the bike and messed about in the park, climbing, swinging, running, hiding and jumping… all the usual stuff. Then came the time to head home. I’d been run ragged and was not looking forward to trudging back up the hill we had freewheeled down!
If I was tired, this was nothing compared to 4 year old legs on a hungry and worn out Hannah. I plonked her in the bike seat and began pushing the bike. Now, in my head this conversation started… I’m ashamed to remember it, but it went something like this, “Man, we need to get back… I’m shattered.” “I wish I was 4 and someone was pushing me up a hill… AND, we haven’t even GOT to the hill yet!” “Flip, I’m unfit!”…
When I say “conversation” as I said, it was in my head. One of those internal dialogues with myself I do. Maybe you do that? Anyway… there I am “monologuing” away to myself, now beginning to feel the burn in my calfs as I pushed up the incline.
I turned round for a moment. There. On my daughters face. A great big beam! She was grinning. She was chuckling away to herself. She was WAVING to the cars and pedestrians from her throne as I sweated and strained with the bike.
My internal dialogue would have shifted to a shout if It had been out loud. “WHAT does she think she is doing?” “THIS isn’t fun, if she could swap places with me for 5 seconds she wouldn’t be grinning and waving!” I think at this point my internal grumbling might have become an audible muttering under my breath as I continued to push and heave us up the hill.
From behind me my daughter suddenly exclaimed,
“I’m so happy!”
Boom. My internal voice of dissatisfaction, frustration, selfish and silly nonsense was stunned in to silence.
I felt tears prick my eyes.
Here we were, sharing a precious afternoon on this beautiful day – the same experience, the same time, seeing the same things, doing the same things (well, apart from the pushing from me and all the sitting from Hannah!)…
My daughter was full of joy and delight. That exclamation was unbidden, I hadn’t asked her how she was, if she had enjoyed the afternoon… it was just a natural response to what was happening, our time together, the fun of watching the world go by as her Dad pushed her up a hill!
I began to feel it. I began to feel a bit of the overspill of joy from my daughter. A different internal conversation began, “This is amazing!”, “What was wrong with me? I nearly missed this!” “How wonderful… !” Physically, I was not feeling wonderful (good grief my calves are burning!) but, suddenly I looked at our time together and the day completely differently.
I started above with a quote, “to miss joy is to miss all”. Did you know that kids laugh and smile about 400 times a day? Adults might hit 20 times on a good day.
Joy for me is found, increasingly, in delighting in what is right in front of me. As a dad I just don’t want to miss magic moments with my kids, and what that story showed with Hannah was, even though I was THERE – actually spending time with my amazing daughter, I nearly missed how special and precious that time was. It took my 4 year old to express her feelings in three simple words – I’m so glad I heard them and responded.
There is joy in the mundane, the ordinary, the regular, the usual moments of life. For a child there is a joy and wonder that overflows and creates those 400 laughs and smiles a day. I don’t want to become childish, but I do want to become more childlike. I want to regress and rediscover laughter, fun and joy at the heart of the everyday – EVERY day.
Ali runs “The Resource” which is aimed at equipping, supporting and encouraging those who work with children, young people and families in the church and community. Ali is passionate about seeing this generation reached with the Good News and equipped to live life to the full – John 10:10!