Nursing homes aren’t usually thought of as joyful places. And that’s understandable, since many people in need of skilled nursing care face very hard and even painful conditions. And yet, having worked at Messiah Lifeways at Messiah Village for the last 19 months, I have seen first-hand that joy is not dependent on circumstances. Some of the people with the most joy are facing the darkest moments in their lives.
One man visits his wife every day. He lives in an apartment by himself while she is cared for in a nursing neighborhood because of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. And yet, every time he sees me, he remarks on how blessed and grateful he is. Joy radiates from his face.
Another woman lost her husband nearly two years ago. She grieves his loss every day. And yet she used her resources to create an amazing music therapy program to bring the joy of music to hundreds of residents throughout Messiah Village. The joy she receives from having given this gift is remarkable.
Yet another example is found in a couple who have faced tremendous losses – the kind that could shatter a person’s heart and leave them questioning where God is. And yet, they regularly bring their therapy dogs in to spread cheer to nursing residents, which brings joy to them in turn.
What I’ve observed in each of these instances is that joy is present when the person has a spirit of gratitude and generosity. When they are grateful for even the smallest blessings of daily life and when they look for ways to pour out blessings on others, joy follows. These examples and so many others inspire me to live a life of joy as well. If people facing their darkest days can find joy and share it with others, so can I.
Long after the Christmas lights fade and the holiday music subsides, we can still find and spread joy each and every day, even in unexpected places and even in the hardest of circumstances. May we give thanks, live generously, and spread the joy of Christ this season and throughout the New Year.