The Secret of True Joy
Updated: Feb 27
"The best way of feeling better is help others to feel better"
There is an Italian saying that keeps resonating in my mind these days, Fare di necessità virtù, literally “To make a virtue of necessity”. The isolation of this period of quarantine is crucial to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, possibly ours included. But can it also become an opportunity to change our lives for the better?
One of the perks of my job as a priest, especially over the past 10 years, has been preaching retreats all over the world. Retreats are very similar to quarantine. People freely choose to isolate themselves from daily life for a period of time (usually a week) to meditate on the meaning of their lives, their relations, their beliefs. To help their reflection there is a daily motivational talk given by a preacher (this usually is my role). A retreat gives participants inner space and time for reviewing their priorities.
The pace of contemporary lifestyle leaves us little time to think about what we really want to make of our lives. Who are the people we really love but we take for granted and neglect.What are the things that truly give joy to us and that we are overlooking.
We are content with our everyday lives and long for going back to them as soon as possible. But this time of quarantine can become like a retreat in which we reflect on whether we might be missing out of what can give us real, lasting and authentic joy.
Indeed, a good question to ask to ourselves might be this: where do I find real joy?
The answer will be different for each one of us.
For the apostle Paul this answer was “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20.35). For him altruism is the secret of real happiness. Do we want to feel better in our isolation, overcome our boredom and frustration, make the best out of the present ordeal? Let us think of others. The best way of feeling better is help others to feel better.
And many people seem to have got this. In the midst of so many depressing news, we heard today that the number of people who have volunteered to help the NHS in its fight against coronavirus has passed half a million, double the government's recruitment target.
We are still waiting to find a cure for the coronavirus, but we already seem to have found a way of overcoming resignation and sadness in our hearts.