In the Strangest of Places!

We sat in the hospital room waiting for my son to wake up from his four-hour surgery. It was a family gathering. The surgery had a fifty per cent chance of success and, if the outcome was  negative, he would require a major change in lifestyle and activities. The doctor finally arrived and informed us everything went much better than expected; the odds worked in my son’s favour. As he began to wake, though still under a good dose of morphine and in quite a trance of tranquility, we told him the good news. We were all so happy. At the same time, our daughter was checking text messages on her smartphone. She displayed a big smile, so we asked her what was up. As part of her postgraduate studies in international development, she was required to find (on her own) an internship to obtain the required practical experience to complete her program. She had applied to an organization in California that promotes human rights in North Korea. They had texted a notice of acceptance to her. We couldn’t have been more thrilled.

As a family we had gathered in the strangest of places, a hospital room, only to experience one of life’s most joyful moments. It didn’t take a visit to Disney World or Universal Theme Parks, a boat cruise, an exotic vacation, a wedding reception, a movie or a theatrical production. Joy was found as a family from knowing the health of a son, the achievement of a daughter and the support of parents and friends, which made us complete as a family. It was a simple but joyful moment that morning at Oakville Trafalgar Hospital.

So many of us have had the joy of life stolen from us and we work hard trying to find it again and again. But it seems so elusive. Yet, joy can be found in the strangest and simplest of places.

I was in a Board of Directors' meeting. The agenda wasn’t heavy, but it still demanded my serious and careful attention. I noticed a text message from my daughter. It simply read: “I got my G2!” All I could do was smile. As a father, the sense of joy I felt was unbelievable. I had no idea she was  attempting to take the G2 test, but I did know it was approaching soon. She had worked so diligently to be prepared. I laughed to know she had kept her secret from me. The simple joy of life was found in the strangest of places: a Board of Directors' meeting!

The joy of life may be simply stated, as it is in French, as “joie de vivre,” which is often used in English to express the exuberant joy of being alive.

While we compete for title, position, money and recognition, we have allowed the joy of life to pass us by. Many, though, have found life’s joy in the simplest of activities and in the strangest places.

I like the attitude of Robert Brault, who makes us consider this:

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

Our friends Loveline and Jesse asked us to babysit Chloe for a week. We had never met Chloe but said yes anyway. Chloe is a labradoodle — a cross between a Labrador retriever and a golden doodle. From her arrival to her departure, Chloe managed to capture our hearts. From simple playtimes to long walks, from curling up at our feet to escaping our grasp, Chloe continuously made us laugh. To this day, I have pictures of that lovable dog on my smartphone, and each time I look at them, a smile demonstrates an irreplaceable joy.

My words for you are these: Don’t let anyone steal the joy of living from you. When your time is done, you may be quickly forgotten. Your late nights, extra weekends, lost vacations and time away from friends and family cannot be replaced, and may never be acknowledged, remembered or honoured.

The joy of living can be, and is yours regardless of where you are, who you are with and whatever is happening. It does not need to be discovered. It only needs to be experienced.

It can be as simple as the moment after the rain stops and a rainbow dominates the sky, the sound of children playing in the park, a small gesture of kindness from a friend, a smile from a stranger, that dog Chloe licking your face, a hug that lasts a little longer than normal, playing a game you last played as a child, receiving a handwritten thank you note — or helping someone and witnessing the affect on their life.

I was flying home from Winnipeg, Manitoba. As I was waiting in the airport lounge, my name was called over the speaker system. I went to the front desk. For no reason at all that I could determine, Air Canada had upgraded me to business class. But they said because it was a last-minute upgrade, there would be no food available. But  I accepted it anyway! After hitting cruising altitude, the seatbelt sign was turned off and the beverage and food service began. Again, unexpectedly (because I was told otherwise), the flight attendant did have a meal for me. Ah, the joy of life! Sitting in business class rather than economy, lots of leg room for my 6’1” frame, lots of food and drink: the simple joys of life in the strangest of places…on an Air Canada flight!

Don’t let life pass you by. The joy of life is waiting for you in the simplest and sometimes strangest of places.