It is true that even heroes can be overcome by the pressures of life that give no relief--the endless suffering of innocents, the rampant injustices of the world. When they are overcome, they can lose their sense of joy.
But heroes also know there won’t be many people who will be attracted to their cause, mission or vision if they smell like a burning martyr or walk around with a gloomy disposition. Heroes know the truth of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mother Teresa’s words: “She gives most who gives with joy.”
I believe it is the joy we see in the faces of heroes which attracts and inspires us to be a part of their vision. If there is anything we want more of in life, it is to feel joy and to be with people who are joyful.
Joy is essential to a hero’s mission and to avoiding compassion burn-out. As Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the Hasidic teacher says, “Always remember: Joy is not merely incidental to your…quest. It is vital.”
So what is joy?
Joy is an attitude toward one’s being, commonly referred to as joie de vivre, the joyousness of life. Alfred Souza once defined joie de vivre in these words:
"Dance like no one's watching Sing like no one's listening Work like you
don't need the money Love like you've never been hurt before Live like
there's no tomorrow?"
It is that precious approach to one’s days that says joie de vivre is “not a desire to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping you.” (Thomas Wolfe)
How do we stay joyful?
Julian of Norwich, a 14th century English mystic, speaks to us today when she writes: “The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.”
In this spirit, Walt Whitman was a man who had a joy in his heart when he wrote the poem entitled, “Miracles”:
“Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As for me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with anyone I love, or sleep in the bed with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with all the rest.
Or watch honeybees busy around the hive of an afternoon,,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of the stars shining so quiet and bright
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring,
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles…”
Walt Whitman beautifully reminds us that the capacity to enjoy life is dependent on a mindset that is grateful. Most heroes share this mindset. Even when things take an unwelcome turn, they find something to be grateful for, including the opportunity to serve, joyfully.