I love the word JOY. During the Christmas season we hear the word JOY quite a bit. We even have the word JOY right next to the entrance to our house. JOY is a good solid word. It is easy to spell and easy to remember and I love the meaning of the word JOY. When I looked the word joy up in the Merriam Webster dictionary it defined JOY as "a feeling of great happiness; a source or cause of great happiness".
This Christmas season we had the pleasure of putting together blessing bags to hand out to the homeless. We decided to do something special since it was Christmas and so we used bright red Christmas stockings as the blessing bags. We filled the stockings with hats, gloves, scarves, socks, toiletries, snacks, candy, and a Christmas devotional. We carried these stockings around with us wherever we went in case we ran into a homeless person needing or asking for help. Sometimes a man or woman would be standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign and we would hand them a Christmas stocking from our car window as we drove by. Another time we went to the homeless park and handed out the Christmas stockings to people who were there. The look on the peoples' faces every time we gave them a Christmas stocking was quite interesting. They were always surprised, always grateful and always said thank-you and it gave us pleasure to share Christmas in a small way with these individuals. There were, however, three interactions with people that went beyond giving us pleasure and instead filled out hearts with JOY. These individuals reminded us of how such a simple thing of giving someone a Christmas stocking was really not a simple thing but rather a very big thing.
The first individual was a gentleman standing with a sign outside of King Scooper. For those of you who don't know what King Scooper is, it is the grocery store in this area, similar to Market Basket or Shaws back east. It was a cold night and we had just finished up an afternoon of shopping and we were on our way home. We saw this man standing on the corner of the parking lot outside of King Scooper. He was holding a cardboard sign. I don't remember what the sign said, all I remember is that we knew he needed some help and so we reached around to the back seat of our car to get him a Christmas stocking. When I handed him the stocking he didn't know what to say to me. He was quite surprised and almost speechless. His only words to me were "I haven't had a Christmas stocking in 20 years. Thank you so very much". How does a person go 20 years without getting a Christmas stocking? I thought most people have a Christmas stocking every year. My eyes were opened and I could only begin to imagine and didn't really want to imagine why this man had not had a Christmas stocking in 20 years. As we pulled away from King Scooper my heart was filled with JOY that this man now had the simple pleasure of opening a Christmas stocking two days before Christmas.
The second time Ed and I were at the homeless park in downtown Fort Collins giving out the Christmas stockings. There were several men in the park that bitter cold day. They were clearly chronically homeless as they had their belongings in a shopping cart next to them. One man sitting on a cement wall. We walked over to him and handed him a Christmas stocking and told him "Merry Christmas". All he could say was "Oh my goodness....a Christmas stocking". When he took the stocking from me I noticed that he had no gloves on and his hands were dirty and purplish colored from the cold. I felt so bad for him and told him that he would find a pair of gloves in the stocking to keep his hands warm. He thanked us several times and as we walked away we saw that he was smiling as he was looking through his Christmas stocking. Once again our hearts were filled with not only pleasure, but with JOY.
We were approaching Christmas and we only had two stockings left. One stocking was for a man and the other was filled with items more suited for a woman. Ed and I were walking around downtown Fort Collins. It was late in the afternoon and the streets looked so beautiful as all the Christmas lights were lit. It was also busy downtown as all the stores were open and there were many shoppers finishing up their Christmas shopping. As always, we carried our bag with the Christmas stockings. It was then, as we were walking down the streets Fort Collins, that we ran into the third individual who filled my heart with JOY. We saw a man and a woman standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign asking for help. We walked over to them and I first handed the man the Christmas stocking and then I handed the woman her Christmas stocking. She just stood there looking at me and did not take the stocking from me. Her friend said to her "Take the stocking". Rather than reaching out to take the stocking from me her hands went up to cover her face and she broke down crying. I just stood there with the Christmas stocking in my hand. I told her it was ok and her friend told her again, "just take the stocking". She pulled her hands away from her face, still crying and said, "A Christmas stocking!". She still didn't take it, she was still crying but her face was filled with JOY. Her friend once again told her to take the stocking and she did. I stood there with her for a few minutes, my hand on her shoulder, wishing her a Merry Christmas. She thanked us so many times with tears streaming down her face and as we said good-bye I realized that indeed my heart was full of JOY and I knew that in giving JOY to another person I had also received JOY.
JOY is a two way street. You give JOY to another person when you take the time to help them and in the giving you also receive JOY. I am convinced that to truly find JOY you need to give of yourself to help others. I believe that Jesus knew that we would find JOY in helping others. In this new year Soaring Wings Ministries will continue to reach out to others in need in the name of Jesus and in the process we will be filled with JOY. It truly is our JOY to serve others and there is nothing else we would rather be doing at this time in our lives. During the new year I encourage you to keep your eyes open to the need of others around you. Look for the opportunities that are there and take the time to give JOY to another person. You will indeed find JOY, a special kind of JOY, the feeling of great happiness that comes when you take the time to help someone in need.
Praying that God will bless and guide you in the new year,
Soaring Wings Ministries
Anita Rennells is the author of this blog. She and her husband have moved to Colorado when Ed retired and are in the process of opening a ranch to help homeless young adults.
Soaring Wings Ministries