A Cup of Conversation – September 2017
An old man walked across a city intersection on a blistering hot summer day. His shock white, trimmed full head of hair and long beard betrayed advanced age as he walked with a damaged gait; probably an old injury never healed. A Santa Claus belly screamed well-fed and fresh-pressed pants and a clean, ironed red T-shirt were evident of unquestioned self-respect. The man towed behind him an efficient dolly rig with a clean trash receptacle smartly bungeed down. In his right hand was one of those cool extended reach grabbing tools used with a deftness of years long passed. I looked around into traffic noticing no one really noticing him picking up the litter as he passed by. No piece of refuse was too small or insignificant, his pace never interrupted as to be a burden to anyone in a hurry. Somewhere along the way, probably decades ago, he discovered a simple purpose of making his world just a little bit better bringing him great joy. I’ve this unshakable sense everyone having crossed his path is better off.
Someone once said real success in life is the capacity to receive joy in the most barren of circumstances. What can’t be overcome when the heart is so conditioned?
I think some are given this capacity as a spiritual gift but most learn and acquire emotional discipline and spiritual peace through harsher challenges in this world. Either way, there will be a degree of suffering in the process. The former joy is forged in pain to come, the latter joy in wisdom of trials past. The worldly run away in abject fear from suffering and avoids like the plague those who are. The unworldly face suffering with faith there is something far greater in purpose on the other side, then comfort those in the midst of great affliction.¹ The difference between the two spans time and space.
Joy is not happiness. Happiness has a short shelf life and requires material or emotional stimulus to maintain. Joy or honest contentment is not dependent on worldly treasures like good health, wealth and human relationship. In a healthy, balanced life, joy is at the center of everything. Depression not based in chronic pain or illness, along with anger and bitterness exist in the center of a human-universe in chaos spinning out of control. Eventually, gravity and time take a needlessly costly toll on everything not in balance.
Science once told us the heavens revolved around the earth. It was a fallacious argument based on wrong assumptions but sounded good to a humanity vain and vastly ignorant. New science tells us the universe is continually expanding. If this is true, humanity is still vastly ignorant…and will always be vain as we insist to be the center of our own universe.
The old man in the red tee-shirt clearly did not consider himself the center of anything. He was content in his purpose, position and place somewhere on the vast periphery of this planet in motion. Joy flowed through him effortlessly to everyone willing to consider but for a moment and receive the same.
Be good not bitter.
¹ 2 Cor 1:3-5