Coaxing Out Joy

Laughter, humming and upbeat conversations unite to create a perfect Christmas tune, while red, green and white cover the RTTN gymnasium like bits of Christmas confetti. The facility is divided into two workshops, each equipped with fully stocked tables of coolest assortments of toys and gadgets available to the contemporary kid. This is the morning of Redemption to the Nation’s 2018th annual Christmas Share event.

Among the assemblage of community members and volunteers, a little boy grabs the attention of the 4-6 Boys’ table. The widest, sincerest, a front-tooth-invested-to-the-toothfairy smile adorns his little face.  His eyes are sparkling with excitement, two little stars in the sky unmarred by city’s lampposts and traffic lights. The five-year-old depicts the joy of the shepherds when the angel proclaimed ‘fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy’.

Joy is December’s trademark emotion. It is advertised in the bright lights outlining windows and in the upbeat Christmas music that spills out of every department store this time of the year. There is much joy on Christmas mornings when the living room avalanches with wrapping paper, and cheers, hoots and on some occasions satisfied nods accompany the revealing of toys and tools we give and receive from one another. Yet, we rarely remember the contents of our wrapped packages. What stays in our memories days, months, and years later are the hugs and pleased smiles of the people who gave us those gifts.

The gifts were not what caused the little boy to reflect the smile of the favored shepherds two thousand years ago. His eyes, although glittering, trailed past the wide assortment of toys laying before him on the table, and rested on the face of the RTTN volunteer extending his hand to the youngster in a hearty, man-to-man, grownup handshake.

Joy, as witnessed in this year’s Redemption of the Nation’s annual Christmas Share event, comes with the love we give and receive from one another. Love is in the handshake between the little boy and the man in a green t-shirt and a Santa hat. Love is in a shy smile of a girl pointing to the Pocahontas doll laying on the table between us. Love is in the late hours setting up and taking down the tables, chairs, and curtains that turned the RTTN gymnasium into not one, but two North Pole workshops overnight. Love is in the extraordinary efforts it requires to meticulously plan for, fund, and organize the event. Love is in the sincere “how are you” and a tight hug between a mom with kids gone to college and an expecting mom with a fussy toddler by her side. Love is with the disabled grandmother riding her wheelchair with oxygen tanks in her pockets. Love is the force that prompts her to make her way on the city bus, excited and determined to bring joy to her grandchildren.

Love is the union between the young and the old, the foreigner and the native, a single mother and a successful business corporation.

Suddenly, joy spreads throughout the gymnasium and covers it like the rare snow shower on a Chattanoogan Christmas morning. Love is connection, and joy is love’s adoring little sister. Wherever love shows up there joy is also, cheering, dancing and smiling her widest, sincerest smile. This joy does not leave with the bright lights and the upbeat Christmas music once December is over. Joy that comes from love stays with us. And just as it spread from the angels to the shepherds and rested on Mary who ‘treasured up these her heart’  joy spreads from a little boy to a volunteer and rests on our community.

Special shout out to Daniel Casillas of the Signal Mountain WalMart for the community grant, shelving, buggies and volunteers! Sincere thank you to Sam’s Club, Ashland Terrace Neighborhood Market, Shallowford Road Neighborhood Market, and East Brainerd Neighborhood Market for the generous community grants.