At a recent meeting in DC, I sat at a table with nine other colleagues from around the country. Our topic for the day was “The Future of Arts & Creativity in America.” Conversations throughout the day wavered from the impact of the election on the arts to cultural shifts in community arts initiatives, to diversity in audiences and leadership.
At one point, we were asked to narrow our conversation down to three questions, developed by our table-mates, and dig into them a bit. Our table only had two questions though – one dealing with working on making audience members reflect the community members better and one on creating a better pipeline for arts leadership.
So, we were left with seven minutes without a question to answer. What to do?
One person at our table posed this question to the group:
What is one way that you plan on spreading joy?
During this time of year, spreading joy can be a little overhyped. There’s this pressure to use the world around us to spread joy – leveraging material items to produce a joyous response from another person. Pile on top an unnecessary competition we enter into against each other in trying to create the greatest joy in those we each love.
Spreading joy becomes a chore this time of year doesn’t it?
But it doesn’t have to be. And it shouldn’t be. Joy comes from us giving something to a person who otherwise would not be able to obtain it otherwise. And what’s the great “something” you can give to spread joy?
Spend time with your parents. Spend time with your siblings. Spend time with your friends. Spend time with those you love.
More than anything, time is the gift that spreads joy. Because time is not infinite. Time is the most valuable asset we have in our lives. When someone spends time with another person, they are giving a part of their life to you that both of you can never get back or return or exchange.
You can mail a new bag to your friend across town, but you can’t mail an hour of your time at a coffee shop.
Time eventually runs out. People move, friendships and relationships end, and people exit your life. But spending your own time with another person or with a group of people is the best way of spreading joy, regardless of how much time is left on the clock.
How will I be spreading joy this season?
This year, and every year for the last 5 years, I volunteer almost every night for my community’s Christmas Festival. It’s a 16-day festival that centers around classic horse-drawn carriage rides around one of the city’s most decorated neighborhoods. I help get people on and off the carriage rides. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s cold, but it’s worth my time.
Why? Because for the 20 or so hours I spend loading and unloading carriage over the next few weeks, I see families and friends share in their own act of spreading joy – spending time with each other. I’ve seen at least one proposal happen each year, watching a nervous young fellow buy all 16 tickets for the carriage, hop on with his girlfriend, and come back 20 minutes later with a future wife. I’ve seen groups of friends, of all ages, share in an annual tradition to jump start their Christmas. And I’ve even seen my own family spend their time selling carriage ride tickets, volunteering alongside me, and even all five of us taking the time to spend time together, riding a carriage.
Spread joy this season, by spending time.