Feeding the Heart with Joy

How often do we feed our hearts on stories of violence, ugliness, and heartbreak? If we follow the news, then daily. This diet makes our hearts heavy. In times like these, we need to feed ourselves better stories and experiences—not only for our personal well-being, but also to remind ourselves of better possibilities for humanity.

So, let me offer your heart something nourishing.

On a recent summer evening, I found myself at loose ends. My boyfriend and I had planned to picnic at our local concert in the park. But that day turned out to be his cat’s time to die, and he and his daughter needed time together. So, with a heightened sense of the briefness and sweetness of life, I decided to go to the concert myself.

The park was brimming with people. The music was in full swing. I waded into the midst of the crowd, through families seated around picnic baskets, older people in lawn chairs, and whirls of tumbling and laughing children.

The musicians, a swing band, played with a palpable sense of joy. They told us this was their favorite concert to play all year. I could feel it. This joy radiated, spreading from the crowd to them, and back again.

I sat on the grass, feeling my body connect to the earth, the entire park supporting my weight. A profound peace descended. I looked at the people around me—really looked—and felt suddenly overcome by their beauty.

The older woman, in a dressy hat and lipstick, staring with adoration into the face of the corgi on her lap. Unnoticed beside her, the weathered partner staring with equal adoration at the woman.

The couple who knows how to swing dance, their steps the perfect complement to the music. The huge, lumbering man who turns graceful when he hits the dance area. The slender woman, swaying with a toddler on one hip and a pinscher pup on the other.

I could go on. The delighted little girl dressed in a velvet fuchsia dress, and the mom who rolls and plays with her all evening while their huge family laughs. The barefoot grandma chasing and tumbling with the barefoot girl, both in matching sundresses.

Strangers talking. Introverts smiling. Non-dancers sitting still, their faces lit from within.

All around, the best in us, the brightest, shining out and bonding us. All to be found in a couple of hours, on a summer’s evening, in Trolley Barn Park, in my neighborhood of University Heights—and probably in yours, too. All you have to do is look.

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