Joy Really is That Simple

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Substance

Many times we think that giving means that we take something of material value and pass it on to someone else. Examples would include gifts, money, items, food etc. There are times when each of those things can make a world of difference, but more often it is the intangible that we give that makes lasting changes and impressions.

We live in days that are difficult. Many of us are trying to figure out how we are going to make it in the coming months. Stress builds – we feel the load. We wonder about how we are going to buy tires and pay for the registration of the car. When we walk that road it is very easy to withdraw and to focus inward.

I played Junior Monopoly with my son tonight. He skunked me. He thought is was very funny. While Monopoly is not my favorite game, my son really enjoyed the time I took to play the game with him. Earlier I wrestled with my two other sons on the carpet, and handed out some jelly beans to all 4 kids. I could have done better with giving my wife some time as well. Best remedy that tomorrow.

The point is, 10 years from now I might remember the daily struggle of just “making it” but the relationships I create by giving time will mean infinitely more.

I needed that time today and they needed it too. The days where little hands pat my face will be over way too soon.

Lines

Here is a nifty little image that I created. What do you think it represents?

Each line reprensents a path of someone’s life on any particular day, but the emphasis here isn’t the path itself. I want to focus on where each of these paths cross. The points of intersection represent where each of these people interact.

These points are a great opportunity. What difference can you make? Some of these paths cross several times, others only once to never be crossed again, but does that really matter? The length and frequency are irrelevant for this excercise.

The paths you cross throughout the day are a chance to give, to bless, to uplift, to share. I have found that the things that matter most are the relationships we create.

Each path that we cross we should leave better. Most often this is through small means, by putting in just a little effort. That path you cross may be altered in positive ways.

Outward

In my last entry I talked about my personal lesson about giving when things were hard. This last few days I’ve been doing a lot of pondering over what I should be learning during this personal trial.

Many of us are struggling right now. This economy is really rough on a lot of people. I made a call to a friend who wanted to have me do some work for them. They said they really wanted to start, but that they were waiting on some of their clients to pay before they could do anything. I immediately understood because I am facing the same thing.

Because things are so tight and so much is expected of me, my natural inclination is to pray for my own deliverance, which we’ve been doing as a family and personally. This morning was different. After getting off the phone with this good friend and totally understanding his position I decided to not pray for myself today.

I prayed for all those families I know that are struggling. I really tried to reach outward and have concern for those around me.

What if we all did this? What if we all lent our faith in behalf of others?

I found this tied directly to my feelings of the other day. It’s easy to pray for those around us when things are good. What about when things are rotten for us? What about when he have such tremendous needs of our own?

Giving Bliss isn’t just about increasing joy, but also about easing pain and lifting the down trodden. The story that comes to mind is when the soldiers came to arrest the Savior and one of the disciples struck out with a sword and smote off a servant’s ear. The Savior had just faced a tremendous burden in Gethsemane, and knew he was heading to his death – yet even in this moment of personal struggle, he reached out and healed the man with the missing ear.

That, to me at this time, is a profound lesson.

Climbing

There has been far too long of a gap from the last entry. Even for those of us who know where happiness is derived and seek to see the good in each situation, including the difficult ones, there are periods that are unpleasant. The last week or so has been challenging personally for me.

Sometimes I would think “here I am writing a book on finding joy through service and through simple things and I’m feeling down.”

Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so. In fact it makes me real. I’m feeling the effects of this economy and the state of the world like everyone else is. But should I let it beat me? Should I feel abandoned? What of my prayers? Are they being heard?

Everyone of us will inevitably have times of discouragement and sadness – that’s in the program. The activity that helped me out of my dark place was simple doing some art. I finished a pastel piece of my great-grandfather for my grandfather.

Honestly, right now I am tired, and drained and feeling the stress of too many bills and not enough month. I have several choices. I can wallow. I can complain. I can sink into despair, OR I can decide to try to learn from this. I told a wise friend “I’m tired of being a charity case…” and the reply was that I’m learning how to receive as well as give.

But I am tired. And maybe that’s the test. This very well could be the learning moment. What will I do when I’m tired? Will I be weary in well doing? Can I learn to give even when I am not inclined to? It’s easy to give when you are feeling good. Can I focus outward even in my time of trial?

I may have answered my own question in the very writing of this entry.

So if we fall in a pit do we sit around, or do we climb? It really is our choice.

Assignment 2

This assignment takes about 2 seconds (it can take more depending on what effort you want to put into it)

First, I want you to think of the last time you were at the store, or somewhere out and about and saw someone that you knew. How many times have you thought “oh there is so and so, but I really don’t want to talk to them right now, I’ll just pretend I didn’t see them…”?

People have an inherit need of being acknowledged. We just want people to know we are here and that we matter. Kids especially.

So, for this assignment, next time you see someone you know while you’re out, make effort to say hello and acknowledge their presence, and that you took the time to notice they were there. Being noticed can give them a little bliss.

Follow

For those of you interested in following the Giving Bliss project on Twitter, you can choose to follow it here:

http://twitter.com/givingbliss

Simple

I had a unique little experience today. I was hoping a check was going to arrive in the mail today – it really was needed. It didn’t come. I was bummed, but tried to remember patience. I’ve always found that when I am feeling down, if I forget myself and do something for someone else, it lifts me. So I wrote down a list of job ideas for a young man in the neighborhood, and gathered a stack of old Entrepreneur magazines I had. He is needing to earn some money for the summer and I thought I’d just help out a bit.

That helped me feel better, but a bigger pick me up was coming.

A few days ago I was speaking with someone who because of health reasons can’t drink root beer (I love root beer) and other sodas. I found it sad. There is something about those fizzy drinks that is just fun. I was trying to think of some solution and an idea came to me. I suggested just getting some seltzer water and adding organic juices to it. The discussion ended and I forgot all about it.

Today I learned that this person has a child who has some pretty serious health issues. Store bought soda is out of the question for the child (who loves soda), but they were delighted to learn that they could make a home made soda with things the child could drink. The child can have soda!

Wow! A little bliss goes a long way! This was just a simple idea, but look at the impact! Giving Bliss isn’t about some super-duper thing we do for other people, but just genuine simple concern for those around us.

Guest Post: Kindness

On occasion I will include guest posts on Giving Bliss. I like to hear stories about how giving and receiving with gratitude have made the difference in someone’s day – the giver and receiver.

Today’s post is from Eleace, as follows:

One Saturday last year I was really missing my grandma. I just needed to be with her. I decided to go to Kohl’s. Shopping made me think of the many times I had gone shopping with my grandma. It was 9pm, and they close at 10.

I meandered a bit, not knowing what I was looking for, when an older woman in her 70’s approached me. She must have thought I worked there. She asked me for help in finding the skirts. I said, “Sure, I think they’re over there.” I quickly could see she was in need of some help.

I asked her some questions and got some more info about what she needed. She was trying to find an Easter outfit for her daughter who was in a nursing home due to disabilities.

I noticed this woman had similar hair as my grandma. I noticed she was of similar size as well. I also noticed that maybe her mind was slipping a little, and she was having trouble gathering her thoughts, or knowing what to do. Since I lived with my grandma, who had Alzheimer’s, for several years, I found I knew how to communicate with her in such a way that would make things easier for her.

“Here are 2 skirts. Which one do you like,” I asked.

“Well…I think this one.”

“OK, then here’s a shirt that matches.”

As we walked around I smiled, and felt such a sense of gladness. This opportunity was a gift. For reasons unknown to me, I drove 20 minutes at 9pm on a Saturday night to a store that had nothing I needed. And for some reason, this old woman drove 20 minutes from the other direction to a store, when she could’ve gone to one closer.

I know that it was heaven sent. I know I was of help to her, in that small thing of finding an outfit, but she was of so much more help to me. In that moment, I got to be with my grandma. I think that’s what I needed- to be with a real person, not just memories.

In that service, I found bliss.

And I’m sure the old woman raved to her friends about Kohl’s excellence customer service, so I’m sure they benefitted, too. :)

Patience

Today I had the privilege of teaching my oldest to tie a tie. He wanted to learn it to get his last silver arrow before moving up to the next level in cub scouts (his birthday is tomorrow).

He was easily frustrated by it, and I was frustrated that he was frustrated. Then I realized that I saw myself in him. He loves doing things as long as they come easy to him, but when it is difficult or takes many tries, he doesn’t really feel like doing it. My heart softened towards him when I realized that I had those same tendencies. It was when I learned to “try and try again” that I made headway in talents that I discovered in myself.

Excellence comes through repeated attempts at something, mistakes included. A few generations ago craftsmen took apprentices and taught them the craft to pass on to the next generation. Blacksmiths, Cobblers, Carpenters, Swordsmiths, Artisans, Typesetters – you name it – were all vital needs in a community. Care was taken to pass down knowledge. The knowledge and skill was only achieved by the apprentice learning step by step and during years of hands on training.

After a extended length of time and through trial and error, the apprentice became a master and continued to refine his skills.

Each of us needs to have patience with ourselves. We have a Master, and we are apprentices in His great work. Many of us are inexperienced. We all have weaknesses. We will all make mistakes as we try to digest the tremendous amount of information and skill necessary to become as the Master.

Small consistent steps will make the most difference in this apprenticeship. As we internalize this and understand that everyone is learning, our hearts should be softened to those around us. Instead of impatience we will find mercy in our hearts.

Assignment 1

Since this is our first assignment, I’d like to explain what the assignments are. These are merely activities that are composed to encourage thought, simplify life, foster initiative, increase discovery, start good habits….you know…all that good stuff that we like but never seem to know how to get.

I am not trying to make us more busy, rather I offer these as an escape from the drudgery that can invade life.

This first one is really “hard.” You get to watch a movie.
The movie: Because of Winn-Dixie . It is a safe family film.

If you’ve seen it, watch it again.

Here are some questions to think about (non-spoiler) as you watch the movie.

    Giving play in the over-all plot?

    What about initiative?

    What makes the most difference?

Finally, what are some things we can take from this that we can easily apply?