Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Joy: Rx for Pain

Garrison Keillor told one of his now famous stories on NPR over the past weekend. I happened to hear part of it.

The tale dealt with a former Minnesota resident who had relocated to New Orleans. Old friends and family tried to get their loved one to return to her senses and move back home, but she would hear nothing of it.

In the course of the story, Keillor had his "wayward" character explain the joy and dancing and music of such a poor city as New Orleans.

Her explanation went something like this.

"If you feel bad, and you will," she began, "you dance."

People enter into joy, they sing and dance, not because they are joyous inside, but because of the pain, because they feel bad. They dance because they hurt and are sad. The poor dance because they know that it will make them feel better in the face of their persistent pain and need.

How many times have I heard people say something like, "The poor seem happier and more joyful than the rich."

Often implicit in such analysis is the assumption that since the poor are joyful and happy, there is not much reason to work for the social changes that would provide steps up from and out of their poverty.

The lessons to be learned from "the joyful poor" are legion, I expect.

A couple seem obvious.

Poverty is not pleasant and should be eliminated in a nation and world such as ours.

When you face pain and disappointment, especially of the chronic sort, make the best of it.

Dance, maybe someone will notice and ask you why you're so happy!


Anonymous said...

Several years ago my 23 year old fought a bitter battle with depression. I watched one night as he left home on foot in the dead of winter with no coat--carrying only a backpack with his Bible, journal. I fell to the floor weeping, exhausted from worry and weary from walking with this brutally injured child. God spoke clearly to my heart at that moment . . . "Your work is to dance." Dancing is a good work of God--work when there is little else to do.

Larry James said...

Anonymous, thanks for the very personal and helpful post.

An elderly woman once told me, "Larry, we carry our grief in buckets in this neighborhood."

Much of what we do in the city boils down to organizing "dances" so that people can come together to address the causes of their mutual pain.

PatrickMead said...

Loved the post, Larry. However, the last time I danced in public they held me down and put a spoon in my mouth, all the while screaming something about a seizure. Can't figure it out myself.

Christians should be the happiest people in the world. We win!!!