People who know me well sometimes remark that I am a happy person. Actually, it is much more than that. I am a joyful person. Happiness is transitory and shallow. Joy is long lasting and deep. Happiness comes when I find a shady parking place in the Wal-Mart parking lot in July. It comes when I am greeted by an old friend at church who asks me, “How’s it going?”
My joy comes first of all from my faith, but it doesn’t stop there. It also comes from my relationships with my family and friends and sometimes from those I don’t even know.
I do believe that my redeemer lives. I do believe that I am at my best when I follow His precepts in both the Old and the New Testament. I am very aware of my Jewish religious heritage and value it highly. I do not fault the Hebrew people who were poorly led by the High Priest Caiphas. Knowing all of this gives me a peaceful joy that is deep and enduring.
I am married to a wonderful woman who is strong in her faith and her love for me. She is intelligent, thoughtful, and beautiful. I met her when I was 53 and she was 47, and we were married six months later. That was 25 years ago. We have held onto each other through some pretty rough times including the premature death of her youngest son at the age of 35. She is the joy of my life. As a bonus, she is very funny. Sometimes when she pops off at me, it is so funny, I laugh with my mouth open. She is my joy.
I eat breakfast every Tuesday morning with five friends when we’re all in town. These are the kind of friends that if I should need one of them in the middle of the night, all I would have to do is call and say, “Jim, please come over as quickly as you can. I need you.” I wouldn’t even have to tell him what the emergency is. Jim would be there within a few minutes, red lights or green. It is a joy to have friends like that.
I can’t pass up a grocery store cart with a baby in his or her little seat propped up in the cart without stopping and looking and smiling at the baby. I am long past having small children around me. In fact, sometimes, my great-grandchildren drive me nuts, but to look into the face of a tiny baby in the store or in a restaurant or in a stroller in the mall or in my home, is one of the most joyful experiences of my life. It makes my day. I usually look at the parents and say, “It’s a miracle!” They always nod in agreement.
I say all of this because I want you to realize that I am a joyful person with a deep commitment to my life and to the lives of those around me and because of something that happened when I woke up last Tuesday morning (December 10). I have been reading all of the blogs and articles and columns on websites and in publications for the past several weeks. I find only bitterness in the writings of most liberals as well as–I am sorry to say–many conservatives.
There seems to be so much anger and despair. Obama this and Obama that. Liberals this and Liberals that. Conservatives (especially the Tea Party) this and Conservatives that. It can poison your heart. I am old. I am fully aware that I am living on borrowed time if the scriptural note that a life span is three score and ten years is correct. I realize that much more has gone before than is to follow. And I don’t want to die with bitterness and hatred in my soul.
All of this not withstanding, I am still a joyful person, and I simply refuse to allow this poison to eradicate my joy. I made a vow that morning that even though there is much that I cannot control: the economy, foreign affairs, political obfuscation, racism, and more, I can still control my attitude. I will not let that sad little man in the White House who seems to hate America damage my joyful spirit. Onward and upward!
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