Thursday, September 22, 2016


I've been trying to think about whether or not I've ever experience true joy while all alone. I've certainly had happy moments: feeling satisfied upon completing some laborious or challenging task, experiencing elation upon learning that my sports team was victorious, opening the mail to find I've been accepted or approved.

But joy? If I've ever experienced joy while all alone it was either too fleeting to remember or I was compelled to immediately take my good news or epiphany or whatever into the company of others.

Of course, there can be great peace in being alone and we've all felt pride in our solitary achievements, but true joy, I think, is something that requires our fellow humans. As adults we may think that children come to school to learn things, and they do, but I've found that the reason most children want to come to school is to experience joy. I see it every day.

Some children are naturals. They arrive, embrace their friends, sometimes literally, laugh, and proceed to revel in their joy. Others are not so quick to warm. They possess a constitutional caution, one that causes them to be wary of strong emotion or that makes them suspicious of their fellow man, at least until the ice is broken. It may take these children longer to get there, they may not want to come to school because as introverts (and I use this term in the original Jungian sense), they find the other people exhausting, and they aren't always convinced they're up to the challenge. But if allowed their time and space they are always driven toward the joy that can only be found in the other people.

As an introvert myself, I understand the struggle. For decades, I sought to find joy in solitary pursuits, but I've finally come to the place where I know I need the rest of you, every day, if I am going to find it.

Here at the beginning of the school year, there are still many children who are uncertain about the rest of us. Perhaps we are too noisy or too unpredictable or simply too much for them. Some of them would rather be somewhere else. It's not our job to hurry them. They already know about joy, of course: they've already found it within their families, in those moments when time stands still and there is nothing left but the connection we feel with one another. They've known it exists for their entire lives, but now, here at school, amongst the strangers, the pathway to finding it is not so readily apparent. I cannot hurry them because the journey to joy is an individual one we each must take at our own pace and in our own time.

Yesterday, a girl I've known for two years, one who has never been happy about her mother leaving her at school, or anywhere for that matter, a girl who has rarely even spoken to her classmates, opting instead for me or another adult to help her endure her time without mommy, finally found it. She was on the swing as a friend pushed her. They were laughing together, chatting, the rest of the world beside the point, their faces flush with the joy of connection, a glimpse of things to come and, finally, a reason to come back tomorrow.

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