As the year comes to a close, we wish to convey a message of hope- hope that God reaches into the darkest places in our lives and communities to bring healing and abundant life; hope that each of us can transform the world through love and compassion. I have witnessed time and again the miracle of God’s healing in the lives of my patients, and the hope and change that compassion brings to the world. Let us continue to work together to make our beautiful and bountiful planet more accessible to the health, education, needs and dreams of people of all cultures, colors and creeds! This dream is a reality for many, but only our true commitment will make it universal. May God continue to bless you and your loved ones with optimum health, peace and joy this Christmas, New Year and beyond!
Happiness and Joy: Is there a difference?
The holiday season is a holy-day season, an ideal time for reflection, appreciation, celebration and examining our relationships with God and each other. We have been tricked into believing that Christmas, like happiness, is something we can buy in bazaars and retail shops. We associate Christmas with decorations, buying too much, spending too much, eating too much, and doing too much. What if we did not have access to all these things? Is it still Christmas without the tree, the gifts, food, and even without family?
These ideas of where happiness comes from show that it is fleeting, always passing through and dependent on temporal factors like eating a luscious chocolate cake, taking a dream vacation, or winning the lotto. It cannot hold the same space as sadness, anger, or the range of so-called “negative” emotions for very long. Happiness is like the bubbles that my granddaughter blows- delightful and inevitably fleeting.
Joy, on the other hand, is true contentment that comes from internal factors like our love and faith in God. No one and nothing can take it away from us. Because joy is foundational to our true being, it can hold every other emotion and circumstance: the ups and downs of life, grief, anger, betrayal, physical challenges, and financial hardships. Happiness is the feeling of love when it comes, and joy is the love that lasts no matter what. I would like to share two stories that beautifully illustrate joy as a lasting, unshakable strength of the soul.
In 2010, a 34 year old woman with stage 4 breast cancer metastasized in her lungs and bones came to our clinic. This remarkable woman went through a cancer curing program with hope and joy constantly radiating from her face, even in the midst of the intense pain and challenges of her late stage cancer. Seeing her full of joy in spite of the pain showed everyone what true joy and its strength looks like- joy that lasts.
My Christmas experience in Congo, the Pearl of Africa
With everything taken away from this small village in the Congo, it was here that I understood the true meaning of Christmas joy. In spite of having almost nothing, the people, especially the children, were overflowing with joy. You would never be able to guess the hell they had experienced. Most of them had been raped, especially the girls and boys as young as 3-5 years old, and many had lost their parents or had families unable to take care of them. It was impossible for me to comprehend that beneath all those big smiles was a life full of fear, loss, suffering and brokenness. Before we arrived, they had not known or experienced even a single Christmas. Our group taught them to make homemade cookies from local seeds and grains, beeswax candles and other beeswax goods. Since then, the families of that community spend one day together every year creating gifts, and another day packaging and delivering them. It brings them so much joy to spend quality time together as families, give wonderful treats through creative acts of service, and receive words of affirmation about who they were making the gifts for and how they were loved in return.
Let us reclaim the true joy of the holidays, reconnect with what it means to share that joy with a free and generous heart, and reengage a new way of living in hope. This is the real foundation of health- health of the heart, mind and soul that overflows to the body. Yes, we can live and celebrate the holiday season like never before, with compassion, purpose, and the true joy of the Lord. Once again, we are celebrating the message of love, hope and life that Christmas proclaims to the world. May we be driven by the spirit of goodwill towards one another, join our hearts in prayer, and re-dedicate ourselves to spreading God’s message of love, peace and hope everywhere we go!