In order to blossom, flowers need warm rays of sunshine. And in the garden of souls, joy creates the necessary climate for hearts to expand.
There are happy temperaments, always optimistic, never downcast or uninterested, who know how to render gratitude to God: it is a precious talent. But with grumpy children, those who sulk, are withdrawn, are grouchy and otherwise sorrowful, they must be taught to be joyful. Let us know how to point out the joyful side of things (yes, there always is one). The weather is bad: the rain will nourish the earth and help the crops to grow. Here is a vexation: what an opportunity, I am able to offer a sacrifice to the Good Lord! I had less cake than my brother: I am happy for him.
Let us not let children close themselves up in their sulkiness. As soon as this is threatened, a joke or a little teasing can lighten the mood: “Be careful, you are starting to pout; quickly get your big smile out of your pocket.”
Grumpy children who are never satisfied will be interrupted, “Stop whining, you are so busy complaining about what you don’t have, that you forget to see what you do have; you’re moaning like a laundry list of complaints.”
Nevertheless, it’s necessary to detect the cause of an unaccustomed sadness, for example a bad influence or difficulties at school of which the child doesn’t dare to speak. If the child can confide in an adult and find help therein, joy will resume.
Let us take time to savor the simple joys in family life, such as the joy that follows work: contemplate the beautiful fields seen from above, admire the well-weeded garden, or the deeply- cleaned living room. There is the joy of being reunited after the week at boarding school, the joy of singing while washing dishes, the joy of a family outing or picnic, the joy to be old enough to help dad, and so many other little flowers of joy sown for us by the Good Lord. If a child does not find the joyful atmosphere necessary for his fulfillment in family life, it is to be feared that he will go elsewhere to find it, and God knows where this will be.
We will show by our example that virtue, far from smothering it, is the true source of joy. A rigid virtue, cold, stringent, and austere, is not communicable. Far from attracting, it pushes away and easily risks making children rebellious. True Christian virtue is joyful: joy in knowing ourselves beloved children of our heavenly Father, joy in offering Him the little events of our daily life, joy in being pardoned of our faults and healed of our weaknesses…Our Lord, in the Beatitudes, promises eight times to make us happy. He blesses and encourages all pure joy. One may say that joy is the sweetest gift coming from His hands after love.
Sadness, on the other hand, chills and extinguishes souls, kills the taste for effort, encourages vice. Let us not be pessimistic educators, never satisfied with the child’s efforts. There are icy compliments, “Well, you have done less poorly than usual. For a loser, you managed not too badly.” On the contrary, one can be positive even while reproaching, “I know you are capable of doing better, you will show me so next time.” Let us know how to give the child a good reputation to justify, giving justice to his efforts, rejoicing in his success.
Certainly, in every life there are crosses, sometimes very heavy ones. In order not to sadden the family atmosphere, let us keep all concerns for the adults; children are not yet strong enough to carry them. Certain trials will, despite everything, affect the children such as mourning a loss or sickness. It is necessary to help them to cope without letting themselves be overcome with sadness. In fact, as long as one unites himself totally to the Will of God, even if it is crucifying, there remains in the center of the soul, despite all upset feelings, a little spark of joy. Perhaps it will be unfelt, but it is real, because the soul loves God who is always present, and joy is one of the fruits of the presence of the Holy Ghost in the soul.
Don Bosco made joy one of his principal methods of education. He knew that the devil is eternally sad and communicates his sadness to the souls that he leads into sin. On the contrary, the soul in the state of grace is joyful. May children play, run, laugh, even make noise, but may they not sin! Our Saint even founded in his houses the “Society of Joy.” And St. Dominic Savio learned well from his teachings, he who said, “We make sanctity consist of always being joyful.”
Joy in God demands you be
Calm and smiling each morning,
Even if you disagree.
In your heart repeat quietly,
God, Who loves me, is here always
In everyone, Him will I see.
Sadness, banish, without pity,
Never criticizing or complaining,
As nothing more surely chases glee.
Apply yourself most cheerfully
With all your heart, quite happily,
To every work—done manfully.
Welcome all visitors so warmly,
And comfort the sorrowful,
Forgetting self, wholeheartedly.
By radiating joy, most faithfully,
You’ll possess it for yourself