Seeking and sharing joy in a bleak world



There are some shelves in my kitchen where I display my treasures. But they are not collections of copper pans or handmade pottery or ceramic roosters. Rather, they are my books of poetry. When I am waiting for the pot to boil or the onions to sauté, I’ll reach for one of them and let its words speak to my soul. It’s like hearing from a treasured friend.

In these swirling days, my heart begs for their voices. It needs Mary Oliver to demand of it, “Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It needs to consider Walt Whitman’s “gossamer thread” as it seeks to connect us with something worth hanging onto. It needs Maya Angelou to say very simply, and with hope, “Good morning.”

Poetry may not be your thing. It took almost a half century for it to become one of my things, so I understand if you’re wrinkling your nose. Perhaps the thing that gives you joy and hope and love is found elsewhere: on a long walk in the yellowing woods, or in the creation of a pieced-together quilt, or when listening to Coltrane. Maybe it’s found on the streets as you run, or in the texture of your aging dog’s thickening coat, or in the baking of a perfected apple pie.

Perhaps your joy is found in community with a group of believers who never give up on the Detroit Lions, or in a congregation seeking to live selfless lives.

Whatever it is, we owe it to ourselves and all of humanity to engage in it with our whole hearts without waiting another second to do so.

We’re surrounded by so much nonsense these days, so much discouragement, argument and sorrow. It’s taking its toll. I see it on people’s faces in the parking lots, grocery stores and restaurants. I feel it in large gatherings where we look around and take note of the exit signs and, in an instant, plan our escapes if something goes down.

I feel it in waiting rooms wherever the news is on and people with diverse opinions on the current state of affairs are present. I thus declare that all waiting rooms channels across America immediately be switched to something we can agree on. And since I can’t remember what that might be, I next declare they be removed so people within close proximity would learn how to talk with one another again.

As we seek to understand and respond to all that is happening and all that is harrowed, we must remember to step away from the mayhem so that we may feed our souls. We must hold fast to joy.

So scrapbook, woodwork, do yoga and write poetry. Love others fiercely and with abandon for as long as love can last, which is a lifetime and beyond if we’re doing it right. And then talk about it. Declare it in the waiting rooms and grocery store lines. Shout it from the rooftops, if you have access to them.

Share your joy with all who will listen so that they can consider their own beautiful things.

We need you to do this. We live in a world that needs to hear about it. For we are a collective of people desperate to find our own.

Eileen Button teaches Communication at Mott Community College. She can be reached at