There is something about welcoming our guests with a smile, a fresh a cup of coffee and a greeting of "what can we do for you today". It takes very little to please them. Their reactions give deeper meaning to the saying that the simple things in life are the most pleasing. And because a few snacks and coffee easily makes their day, I find myself wanting to do so much more for them.
However, it wasn't often that I felt this way. When I first started to volunteer in the Free Market, I was overcome by shame. I am far from rich, but compared to what little our guests have, along with many others living in the city of Tampa, I could very well be labeled as such. It was in the moments of serving that I realized how I often took advantage of the things I had. I never knew how much a hot shower meant to me until I came into contact with people who hadn't washed in weeks. I regretted the days that I failed to clean my plate, only to throw away good food because it didn't quite meet my taste. For awhile guilt and shame interfered with the way I served. I constantly felt like I wasn't doing enough and would feel terrible if we didn't have something that a guest needed.
So I began to pray; and through prayer I learned to replace my guilt with gratefulness. I now use what God has blessed me with to bless others. The greatest blessing I have been able to give has been my time. Time given to listen to their stories. Time given to tend to their needs. Time well spent that is given to a community that absolutely deserves it. I don't want it back, because my time given gave birth to feelings that were at first unexplainable and foreign to me. The only way to describe it was the feeling you get coming off of the high end of a roller coaster mixed with blissful tingles you receive after an awesome hug.
Joy...is what I think they call it.
And the more I experienced her the more I greedily wanted more of her. You see, joy isn't like other emotions: fleeting. Here one day and gone the next. She is lasting and she is true. Once she takes residence you have to feed her, and the more you feed her the more she grows and the more she grows the chances of removing her become nearly impossible.
I don't think we take joy as seriously as we should. I mean she is directly connected to our thoughts, emotions and actions. Among other emotions we so earnestly seek, joy is the greatest of them all.
It took me awhile to find her but me and joy are getting more acquainted. I look for her in everything that I do, and my greatest hope is that the people I serve and serve with come to know and befriend joy just as I have.