Word Up Wednesday: Simple Joy / by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

As promised, I am continuing Word Up Wednesday by featuring reflections written during my Clinical Pastoral Education Internship. The following was written in July 2015. Again, Scripture was added and minor edits made to be shared here on www.reverendmotherrunner.com

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
— Romans 15:!3

I once saw an op-ed cartoon in a local newspaper that saddened my heart. The black and white drawing depicted a graveyard and focused on one particular tombstone. The tombstone, instead of having an inscription for an individual person, was filled with words. The first word was birth. Next, the word “play” was repeated four to five times. The last word was death. In between play and death, written more times than I could count over eight-or-so lines, was the word “work.” The cartoon suggested that life is simply about working. By the scarcity of the word play, the cartoon suggested that once we get beyond the elementary school years, that our sole focus would be on work. The cartoon, with the graveyard as its backdrop in stark black and white ink, lacked a sense of joy and play.

To be sure, there is nothing inherently wrong with or sad about working to earn a living or to support our families. But a life that lacks joy and play is one that is imbalanced. Play has come to be thought of as “kids stuff” that adults don’t engage in. What the cartoon missed are the moments of joy that we can find in our work, and the moments of joy and play that we experience outside of our work. Joy and play are a vital and important aspect of life.

Even with an emphasis in the virtues of work, I have become inspired by the resurgence of play in the lives of adults. Growing up, one of my favorite games to play during recess was kickball. Recently, there have been a rise of adult kickball leagues across the United States. While coloring is thought of child’s play, you can now find adult coloring books sold in stores and online which are being used for creativity and stress relief. As a runner, while I often run serious races, last year I ran “The Color Run” a 5K in which at every half mile-or so, participants—who started in mostly white attire—get doused in colored cornstarch. By the end of the run, my friends and I were covered in pink, yellow, purple, and blue and laughing hysterically as we crossed the finish line.

What brings you joy? For me, my greatest moments of joy come from engaging with the people I love and hold dear. I get joy from hearing my daughters’ giggle. I get joy from playing Scrabble with, and often losing to, my husband. I get joy from talking with my 93 year old grandmother on the telephone. I get joy from laughing with my best friend so hard that tears roll from my eyes and I lose my breath. I even get joy from visiting with patients as they share the joys of their lives.

As the Proverb goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a mere toy.” Today, and every day of our lives, I invite us to engage in at least one activity that brings us joy.

Let us pray…

Gracious God, we are grateful for your joyous presence in our lives. Open our hearts to experience great pleasure. Open our ears to the sounds of rejoicing. Open our eyes to see delight. Open our mouths to laughter. Use us, we pray, to bring joy to the lives of others. In your name we pray, Amen.