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Friday, December 23, 2016

Gentle Gifts of Joy

May this season come to you quietly, peacefully, with gentle gifts of joy.

I'm stealing this expression from a Hallmark holiday card my daughter recently received. I love the sentiment and the simple wish the words convey.

Quiet and peace are two things I appreciate immensely. I do my best to avoid noisy places and people. My love of nature and wilderness springs from my desire for quiet. I love nothing more than spending time outdoors, soaking in the beauty, preferably in the company of some of this world's magnificent animals, accompanied by my cameras.

Sadly, ours is not a world of peace and quiet. Urban life is a cacophony of sounds. Cities are packed with people and cars, trucks and motorcycles. I remember hating the incessant noise of life in Moscow. My life in busy northern California was so filled with noise that some days I wanted to scream from the honking horns, squealing brakes, rumbling motorcycles, sirens, low-flying airplanes and helicopters and blaring televisions. Now I live in a quiet area, on a 1/2-acre lot. Sometimes at night I can hear coyotes howling, but otherwise life is blissfully quiet.  

Urban violence takes countless lives every year. Innocent Americans are caught in the crossfire or deliberately targeted by gun-toting thugs. My daughter and son-in-law's car was broken into and personal papers and other items stolen. Countries around the world are wracked with religious and political violence. Car bombs, suicide bombers and bombs dropped from airplanes kill innocent victims and destroy markets and hospitals.

Who among us can't use some 'gentle gifts of joy'? Joy, of course, can take many forms. Certainly physical items can bring us joy. But that joy often is fleeting. More long-lasting is the joy that comes from doing for others. I was ordering a couple of things online recently to replace some items that had broken or were worn out, when I remembered that my daughter had said that she and her new husband needed a new knife set. So I included a good set of kitchen knives with my order. That simple act, of doing something for someone I love, brought me joy. Similarly, paying for another's grocery purchase or doing something nice for someone with no expectation of anything in return can bring great joy to the giver and to the recipient.

May we be all be blessed to find our own quiet, peace and gentle gifts of joy during this season and throughout the coming year. If we don't find them, we need to take steps to search in our own way for the things that bring us joy. Let us pledge to work to bring more peace and joy to our troubled world.