Comfort & Joy

December 2017

Taryn Yates, Idaho Childrens Trust Fund's Grant Manager

At the first of the month, I took time while my kids were sleeping to put up all my Christmas decorations. There aren’t a whole lot of them- just enough to fill my mantle and take up a couple of shelves on bookcase, with additional Knick knacks here and there. Still, as I lovingly placed each one, I must have been taking them for granted on some level, because as I was dusting the other day, I found myself staring with great intensity at a decorative sign I have on the wall. It says “comfort and joy” in pretty letters along with a picture of a fireplace. It’s a reference to an old, familiar carol and yet I think people may sing that line without really stopping to think about how important comfort and joy are to the human experience. I know I have.

Comfort implies a state of being free of pain, discomfort, and stress. It brings to mind a safe, warm place to rest and recharge. Joy has another meaning altogether. It’s more than happiness. Joy is an unfettered and exuberant positivity that swells your heart. Joy and love seem to go hand in hand and together are arguably, one of the key goals to our existence.   Yet how many people are going without one or all of these things this holiday season? How many children are living, perhaps loved, but facing extremely stressful situations such as financial or housing instability or who have parents struggling with mental illness or addiction?

I absently wiped the edges of that wooden sign and let myself consider a simple, but profound Christmas wish. What if every child could live in comfort and joy this season and beyond? What would that look like? To live in comfort, all children would have warm, clean homes, be well-fed, have adequate clothing, and be free from emotional stress and turmoil. To live with joy, all children would feel secure and loved and would love someone in return. Their brains would be stimulated by their environment as they learn, grow, and play.

Considering the state of the world this vision seems too big for one person to take on. Bringing true comfort and joy to all of our children would take a lot of work. We would have to decide as a community and society that we are going to prioritize children and their families. That their well-being is how we determine if we are a successful nation. A shift like that would take a lot of time and intention from a lot of people.

So I came up with a plan for myself for the here and now. Taking into consideration my current emotional bandwidth and resources, I’ll start with my closest inner circle of children and work my way out. What can I do to bring comfort and joy to the lives of my own children? We already have quite a bit of snuggle time, play time, and lots of love. They are pretty comfortable and happy. Now I can move onto children of family and friends. Does anyone need cookies, clothes, or help? What about children in my neighborhood? Or my children’s school?

One day I’m hoping to report that I had enough time and resources to reach out and do something to bring comfort and joy to a child far across the world from me. But, for now, in the midst of runny noses, teething, and potty training. I’m just going to do what I can. And that…is a joyous thing.

Originally appeared in the Post Register, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

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