“We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.” ~ Roger Ebert
(Updated reprint of a 2017 Nan Russell Thanksgiving post)
Some people collect coins or books, kaleidoscopes or post cards. While I can add my name to tangible collections through the years, what I really collect is quotations that speak to me, like the one above. As if a treasure unearthed, when I find a quotation that nudges me, inspires me, or touches my soul, I savor it.
I added this quote to my collection after the 2013 death of Pulitzer Prize winner and acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert, whose cancer battle left him unable to speak for the last few years of his life.
While reading about his life, I found his words humbling. They were written by Ebert after more than a decade with debilitating and disfiguring health issues. I’m grateful to have found Ebert’s words. Every time I read them, they encourage me to try a bit harder, to be less self-absorbed, and to contribute more joy.
It’s not hard to contribute a bit of joy every day — acknowledging others’ contributions, smiling at a stranger, being there for family or friends, helping a neighbor, listening without judgment, or telling someone how much we care.
Still, we often don’t. We get caught in our swirl of life — our own busyness and dramas and troubles — absorbed in our own stuff. Ebert’s life and words reframed that for me. How many days do we have in life, in the big scheme of things, to contribute joy, to see beyond our little worlds, to make a difference in someone’s life? To make a difference in our own?
Certainly our worlds, big and small, could use more joy. Common courtesy and etiquette are down; anger, rage, and name-calling up. Voices seek to drown each other rather than hear each other, widening political and social divides. If nothing else, contributing joy offers a counter balance. And we can’t give even a little joy without increasing our own.
While our planet faces threats, weather disasters, humanitarian crises and more, most of us can’t affect those challenges, but we can impact local ones. We can change how we interact with each other; how we acknowledge and respond to the issues around us; and how we show up for each other, in the deepest sense.
I believe, in the scheme of things — we must try. At this time of Thanksgiving, I offer gratitude to so many, who through their words and actions nudge us, push us, challenge us, and prod us to be better people, to be more tolerant and kind, to make a difference by how we live, and to contribute a bit more joy to the world.