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Joy And Happiness, Courage And Cheerfulness

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William Osler, a physician in the late 1800 who among other important advances in the training of physicians was the first to bring medical students out of the lecture hall for bedside clinical training, is attributed with saying "Courage and cheerfulness will not only carry you over the rough places in life, but will enable you to bring comfort and help to the weak-hearted and will console you in the sad hours."
The quote reminded me that I was raised with a similar approach to joy and happiness. My grandmother would say "Everything will work out in the end" with a certain cheerfulness that would drive me crazy. And now that she has passed on I realized that she was on to something I would begin to learn myself: it takes courage to be cheerful, but in the long run its worth it.

Cause A Ripple
Her cheerfulness left an impression on everything and everyone. At least that is how it seemed. I am learning that the same is true for me. As I pass through the world, when cheerfulness is present in me, it leaves an impression on everything and everyone. Like a boat in the water, my atmosphere causes ripples.
American author Washington Irving who wrote the Legend of Sleepy Hollow wrote "A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles." When I read this quote it had the effect of encouraging me to remember that I have an opportunity everyday to bring something wholesome into the world by means of the ripples I am causing.

Bring Your Own
Henry David Thoreau wrote "There is...no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself." Again, a reminder to me to be mindful of what I bring into a room when I enter. On the other hand I am also learning that I don't generate the gladness, it was already there - wherever there is. I don't create it, I walk into a place and there it is, ready to be discovered. That idea gives me courage to step boldly.

Take Heart, It'll All Work Out Well In The End
I am inspired by people like my grandmother and others who have also struggled with tremendous hardships, some who have fought to stay alive, still others who have lost so much, but who have not lost their gladness. Their stories have inspired me to remember that the challenges I face do not have to steal my joy away. They remind me that many things in human experience can go, but gladness doesn't have to be one of them.
Towards the end of her life, my Grandmother's arthritis left her unable to walk or take care of herself. She had multiple operations on her knees and feet and throughout it all she still caused ripples of gladness. I was certain she couldn't be feeling all this cheer and hopefulness she spoke about. And sometimes things would get to be too much for her and she would say "darn it!" I wondered if she would lose her cheer. I thought it would be appropriate considering what she was experiencing. But after a brief pause she would follow up with "Oh what can a person do about it? It'll all work out in the end." In a profound way, her example imprinted something on me, that would give me strength years after she was gone.

Don't Eat Spinach
Clarence Darrow, a civil libertarian and agnostic said "I don't like spinach, and I'm glad I don't, because if I liked it I'd eat it, and I just hate it." I like that quote because it makes me smile every time I read it, even if I'm in a bad mood. I include it here because it reminds me that even in my grieving and sadness, even when I'm all tangled up with my likes and dislikes, there remains a undercurrent of closeness with joy. Even when I want to, and sometimes do, shout out "Darn it!" or something stronger, that closeness with uncaused joy remains available. And for that I'm glad.

I was reading about the author Samuel Johnson who was born in 1709 and how there was some doubt that he would be through infancy. He had severe health challenges very early. Tuberculosis scarred him and left him deaf in one ear and blind in one eye, the result of being nursed by an infected nursemaid.

Nevertheless, he was apparently fiercely independent and driven to get along in life with as little assistance as possible. He didn't want that kind of help, he wanted to live and express. Someone told me that Johnson's writing reveals a passion for life that is inspiring. Hearing this reminded me that I have from time to time allowed setbacks to rob me of my gladness. It has prompted me to take a moment and think about those times and to ask myself if there was at any moment during the setback when there was a real barrier between me and the joy that is already present.
Now I can see more clearly that when a mood changes or when a circumstance changes unfavorably, these changes are not an indication that gladness is gone, and I'm practicing to have the courage to be of good cheer as much as I can.

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