The Small Joys

The Small Joys

“He’s physically and mentally exhausted, and he really needs a haircut.”

My mom was talking about her standard poodle, Jake, who I’m relating to a lot these days. He just got back from dog care, where he’s been for a couple weeks, and his energy levels suggest he aged about 10 years.

The last week has felt like a usual week in 2020. We got a flat tire with all three kids in the car on a hot day. I found out one of my friends might have to get their finger amputated after a small gardening cut got infected. Then, our boiler cracked and needs to be replaced, which is both expensive and means no hot water for the time being, and I could go on with episodes that are even more tragic or stressful from nearly every day.

A quick survey of our friends and community tells me I should still count myself as one of the lucky ones. Around 2008, I was standing outside the Dover library when the financial crisis was in full swing. There was an older guy waiting near me, and I asked him how he was doing with everything. He said he’d lost half his retirement portfolio. Then and after the attacks on September 11th, are the only times like this I’ve experienced when there was such a collective loss that you could talk to strangers with little introduction, knowing your lives were knit into the same narrative.

So far, most of Katy and I’s losses have been surmountable, heavy only because of the sheer volume of them. I’m fast at changing tires, and if getting a flat was an isolated event, I would have walked away happy I could do it and proud of my kids for their patience and cheer at the abrupt change of plans. The tires would have cost money, but I’d also have new tires.

One of my friends was telling me how important it is to hold tightly to small joys right now, so I wanted to share with you one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given. It’s this lawn ornament. I’ve never been a lawn ornament kind of person, but I found this buried deep in an overgrown bush in our yard when I was trimming the first summer we lived in our house. It was faded almost to the point of being completely white. I loved it. I loved how relaxed the frogs looked and chuckled every time I thought about two frogs playing checkers with lady bugs. I also, as you know, love things that are “found.” I came outside two days ago, and it was gone. Then, my mom came out and said she had a gift for me. She’d spent the weekend hand painting it, because she knows I also love things that are reclaimed and redeemed.

Wherever you are, whatever you’ve lost, I pray you are able to reclaim and redeem 2020. We are cheering you on.

Joel and Katy

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1 comment

Joel, at this very moment I’m writing your dear mother an email. I came over here and read your frog story and it brought tears to my eyes. I’m glad you included a picture! And now I’m trying to picture Jake in my mind’s eye.

Mark Peifer

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