Recently, I find myself at moments when I am overcome with joy. It's something I have never felt like I deserve to have, and yet, here it is. After a long hot day full of hard, dirty labor, I took the best shower ever. I sat down on my couch and felt joy flood my soul and fill my very being. It was unlike anything I have experienced before, and I marveled and wondered about it. Why now? What has happened in my life that fills my heart so completely?
I think the biggest contributor is that I stopped looking for it. I had a preconceived notion about what joy and happiness were and are, and I had them linked together with each other and with the circumstances of my life. I thought material things and comforts would bring me joy. The problem is material things are temporary, and I was mistaking pleasure for joy. I have discovered a profound truth about joy - it has nothing to do with outward circumstances and possessions, successes and failures.
Joy resides completely inside my mind, my heart, my soul, and my spirit. It awakens and floods me when my life touches the heart, soul, mind and spirit of another human being. All the securities and material articles and items I used to cling to have been removed. My life started over with nothing a few years ago. It wasn't the plan I had, or the future I had envisioned. I always believed as I got older, life would get easier - I would be able to afford the things I needed and many of the things I wanted, I would be more equipped to handle when circumstances went wrong because joy and happiness were just beyond the next obstacle.
So, I was wrong about all that. I was looking too hard and in the wrong places to find joy. I realized this recently after a deep conversation with a gentleman who came to the food truck. We were shooting the breeze about the weather and the food and other generalities, when the conversation turned more serious. He began to tell me about his life - the life he had before a terrible car accident left him disabled and disfigured. What the accident didn't do, was take away his gentle, kind spirit. He made a statement to me, ever so softly, before he went to sit down to eat. He said, "I'm not even sure why the wife and I are still here on this Earth. Only God knows."
And I know. He is here for people like me, who need to learn that joy happens when two souls collide and profound truths are embraced and shared. Financially, for where I am in life, I am a failure. I have not attained the wealth or status or house or anything else I thought would come along naturally as I grew older. There was a time when I would have dwelt on that a lot, and been worried about it a lot. But not anymore. Whatever my financial and social status might be at this stage of the game, I understand they have no power to bring real joy.
As I think about the gentleman, and many other people who come to the food truck, I realize how we are truly not about food. We are about human connections. We are about knowing people who are unwanted, discarded, ignored and dismissed in this society. We are about understanding how deeply connected we all really are, and how it actually hardens us to joy when we avoid reaching out to those who are different.
Joy comes from relationships, from serving, from listening, from truly seeing the other human beings in our lives, from accepting wherever God has us, and from allowing ourselves to care. When we find true joy, it is overwhelming. It bubbles up inside us and spills out everywhere. And nothing can take it away.