Finals Week Joy; it’s Really Quite Simple

“No thank you…”

She declined the kind gesture, but the smile on her face said it all. If you hadn’t notices, smiles talk. Many repeat the cliché “the eyes are the window to the soul;” but if this is true, in any sense, I would also argue that a smile is the gate.

Some smiles say “oh, that’s cute,”  others boldly proclaim “I told you so,” some are given out of kindness, an awkward moment, or plain happiness. Some smiles, though, communicate something deeper than a simple thought, act, or emotion.

It’s that moment you get a card from a college or high school friend. It is hearing the words I love you,  and knowing they mean it. It is a warm embrace, the face of a newborn child, and actually seeing the fruit of your labor. It is a thoughtful gesture in the midst of what seems like a never-ending nightmare…

it is a free cookie…
it is joy.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of being a part of a team of about eight young adults (sent out by many, with prayer) whose humble purpose was to bring joy to other, slightly younger, adults in our city. In the midst of finals week we offered students three simple things: cookies, prayer, and acknowledgement. And the stories were wonderful!

Some, like the girl mentioned above, didn’t want a cookie, but clearly moved by the gesture. Others, took their cookie, politely thanked us and headed to their apartment, dorm room, or regular library table, where they would study the rest of the night. Many asked for prayer and even received it right then and there: for finals, sociology, projects, family, illness, sports, rest, sanity, and more.

“What’s the catch? There’s got to be a catch…” The suspicion ran deep. Many asked who we were and why we were giving away free cookies. When they heard that we simply wanted to bless them in the midst of their stress, that we were associated with the Vineyard Church, and we wanted to bring a little joy into their week, their eyes light up and the smiles came pouring in.

Over the course of an hour in down town Ann Arbor, we gave away over 350 cookies and a box of donuts, making many very happy college students. Yes, these college students are privileged, in every way (likely, if your reading this, you are too). They don’t need a free cookie; what they really craved, what we all crave, is to be loved and acknowledged–to experience joy in the midst of turmoil.

Who knew such a small, simple, innocent act could make such a powerful impact. 

This Sunday’s practical tip included this simple act of spreading cheer, and how better to experience the Christmas joy. Don’t think too hard, it can be simple:

  1. Often, we experience great joy when we give to others. Take some time to brainstorm some small ways you could bless someone else.
  2. Breathe & experience silence; ask God how you may share joy.
  3. Be open: when an idea occurs to you, do it! Don’t make excuses. 

I was able to spread joy in a tangible way last night, and even though I was a little sick and very tired, it brought me (and the team) joy, and filled us with life!

Still stuck? Here’s a few simple ideas, and I won’t even tell if you steal them: Paying for the person behind you in Starbucks, tape a gift card to your trash can for your garbage collector, bringing coffee to someone who works outside in the cold. Live in or near Ann Arbor? Participate in the Rotating Shelter (which has many locations) or the Donut Giveaway (sign up here) on Christmas Eve.

To a happy finals, an expectant city, and a joyful humanity.