by Susan Sparks
LAST WEDNESDAY, I woke up in a surly mood. You know the kind—when you open your eyes and just think “*%&(@%!” for no apparent reason. My whole day looked doomed with this black cloud of surliness until I walked out the front door of my New York City apartment building.
As I emerged onto the busy sidewalk, an enormous cloud of soap bubbles accosted me. Swatting through the blizzard, I looked up the street and saw a woman walking away, pushing a stroller. Sticking out of the buggy was a tiny arm holding a battery-powered bubble machine that was exploding shiny spheres all over the mob of similarly surly morning commuters. Squeals of laughter echoed from the stroller.
I watched as people stopped, looked up from their intense sidewalk stares, and began to smile. One man burst out laughing when he realized bubbles were stuck to his briefcase. A woman in a power suit tried to catch the bubbles in her hand. A tiny dog leaped and chased them. And an older man with a walker just stood by, watching the bubbles as if they were angels come to earth.
It is amazing what water and soap can do to transform the human spirit. But then again, maybe it’s not so much about soap and water. Maybe it is about our capacity for hope and joy that we have managed to forget, but that is somehow reflected in those bubbles. Unfortunately, the world tends to beat that childlike wonder out of us. Then suddenly, we wake up surly, mad at the world or perhaps ourselves, for no reason.
Joy is a gift from god
Our joy is still there. Our smile is still there. It’s just that it has been buried under years of pain, doubt, and fear. The good news is that it doesn’t take that much to remember: a smile, a kind gesture, a little child with a bubble machine. In a split second, our joy emerges like the morning sun over the horizon.
Joy is our God-given gift—a treasure that we must always remember and honor. As Psalm 16:11 teaches, “You show me the path of life. In your presence, there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
As I turned to walk to work, I decided to take a quick detour to the nearest drugstore and buy a bottle of bubbles, those soap angels from heaven. I had to; I knew it. It was a modest investment that would bring about a marvelous change.
The Rev. Susan Sparks is a pastor, comedian, and columnist. This blog first ran as a Give Us This Day column in the January/February 2020 issue of Gather magazine. Susan is the author of “Laugh Your Way to Grace” and “Miracle on 31st Street: Christmas Cheer Every Day of the Year—Grinch to Gratitude in 26 Days!”