The Contagion of Joy

It had been a long couple of years.  Honestly, Nikki and I were tired.  Our family had been growing (up) and the weight of needs just kept flowing as Dry Bones had been growing too.  The world felt chaotic and overwhelmingly fast-paced.  I know you can relate. 

Nikki and I had been saving and planning and it was finally time.  My mother came to watch our boys and Nikki and I headed off to find sabbath, rest, and to catch our breath. 

By the time we reached our destination, news was buzzing about a coronavirus that might soon become a threat.  Nevertheless, we rested.  We relaxed.  We read entire books.  We got to gaze at each other and have uninterrupted conversations until we about ran out of things to talk about – which is just the best.  Our trip left us refreshed and ready to head back to Dry Bones and our three little boys.

We arrived back to Denver and soon the world began to shut down. 

Here’s the real story of why I am sharing this with you.  

Seemingly overnight, our sales at Purple Door Coffee plummeted.  (PDC is our job training program where youth and young adults from the streets find employment and new life.)

Churches and offices that used our wholesale services had all shut down.  Without work and needing to practice safer physical distancing, the difficult decision was made to place our four current program employees on the unemployment WorkShare program – greatly reducing their hours and in-person training but keeping them employed on the payroll.

I had spent some time processing these major changes with one of the young employees at Purple Door.  I’ll call him “Jake.”  Jake was nervous but confident that God would continue to take care of him and Purple Door.  

The next day, Jake called me back. He had had an epiphany and he wanted to share it with me.  He said, “Matt! I realized something this morning! If you and Nikki hadn’t taken that vacation when you did, you would have had to cancel it.  You wouldn’t have even been able to go. I bet they would have cancelled your flights. I’m so thankful you went exactly when you did because you guys needed that rest and I’m just so happy you got to go and get a break! What a blessing! Can you believe the timing of your trip!?” 

I was speechless. My friend was not jealous.  He was not coveting our vacation.  Jake was not envious or judgmental that we had saved our money and chosen to use it in such a way while he remained back in Denver either on the streets or couch surfing. 

Instead, Jake was authentically happy for us.  He was grateful that we got to do something fun and refreshing.  Jake had no problem sharing his joy for us with us.  In fact, he had stopped what he was doing to call me to share the overflow of his joy for me. 

Here’s a few things my friend taught me in that moment as he spread the contagion of joy: 
It costs us absolutely nothing to be happy for someone else.  It costs us nothing to share in someone else’s joy, to want the best for the other, to be happy even when we are not a part of receiving the direct benefit.  Jake’s phone call strengthened our friendship and brought us closer together.  It caused me to think even more highly of Jake and to appreciate how much my friend deeply cared for me. Our care for each other is truly mutual. 

When we are happy for someone, we should unashamedly let them know. Being happy for a friend is a selfless gift that gives more than could ever be bought. In fact, spreading joy for the other stirs our own souls from all sorts of toxic jealousy, envy, and judgement that might otherwise come more naturally.

My friends on the streets may not have much, but they are rich in wisdom, generosity, and the ability to tell you how they feel.  Young people experiencing homelessness are among my life’s greatest teachers and greatest friends. 

Thank you Jake. You have given me a gift that made that sweet trip a hundred times sweeter.  

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