I Call Her Joy
I had many reasons to be happy that day, but …

I was in a bad mood.

The fact that I was in a bad mood is just ridiculous since I was 5 years old and at the Feast of Tabernacles in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I was attending the Feast with my family, I was able to play with friends every day, and I received many little presents. I had absolutely no excuse to be in a bad attitude. But nevertheless, I was—just like many other 5-year-olds that have had to wait longer than what seemed necessary to go to the pool. In my mind, I definitely thought that jumping in a pool was more important than the rest of the family talking to brethren after services. So, with an annoyed thump, I sat in a chair and waited with proverbial flies swarming around my rotten attitude.

I waited.

And I waited.

And I kept waiting.

What was, in reality, 30 minutes felt like 3 hours to my bored little self. I watched as couples, elderly and families with little babies packed up their belongings and left the meeting venue. I wished I was every single one of those people. At least they get to leave when they want. Needless to say, my attitude was continuing to decay by the second. By this time, proverbial raccoons were gathering nearby, ready to dive into my stinking trashcan of selfishness.

All of this because of a pool and all the fun I thought I was missing.

My eyes kept scanning the room as I enviously watched other people leave. Then I saw something that stopped my wandering sights. An elderly couple, most likely grandparents, were giving a little girl and boy each an envelope. The children gleefully hugged their grandparents and turned toward their parents to present to them what they had just received. The little girl, who was probably a year or so younger than I, looked up from the envelope and caught my stare. She flashed a huge smile and came running in my direction. When she reached me, she held up a $1 bill.

“Look what I just got! Mommy and Daddy said that I have to be careful with how I spend it. But isn’t it exciting?!” She looked so happy. But more than that, she looked thankful.

My rotten attitude took a turn for the worse: “Oh yeah? Well I have $10!”

The little girl’s smile immediately vanished from her face. She stared at me, looked down at her dollar bill, and then turned and walked away.

Regret immediately crashed over me, washing away the rotten stink that had hovered around me for an hour. I watched the little girl walk back to her parents. Her parents looked at me, gently took her hand, and walked away. I never saw her again.

I felt horrible. I wanted to go apologize to her, but by the time I worked up the courage, she was already gone. That was so mean. Why did I do that? I didn’t even know her! I sat there and thought about what had just happened, but I never understood what had happened thoroughly until I got much older.

I was at God’s Feast of Tabernacles. I was with my whole family and God’s chosen people, celebrating one of the most joyous occasions of the year. Yet what was I thinking about? Me. I suppose the attitude I had is not at all uncommon within the realm of 5-year-olds, but my attitude did affect someone else negatively. I’m sure God didn’t appreciate me having a bad attitude in the first place, but I’m positive He didn’t like my willingness to strip someone else’s joy away from them when they were beaming with gratitude.

That little girl had the attitude I should have had. She received a little, but she exuded a lot of thanks. She was happy with where she was and what she had received. I saw her thank her grandparents; she wasn’t too focused on her money to forget about them. She immediately and genuinely thanked them for her gift. Her attitude was genuine.

This is a memory I think about quite frequently. It’s something that has taught me a valuable lesson: Be thankful for what you have. Yes, I was in a bad attitude over not being able to go to the pool. But the real problem was my lack of thankfulness. I had many reasons to be happy that day, but I had let my selfishness consume the joy that God commands us to have at His Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:14).

As I sat in that chair, I realized how bad my attitude had been. I stood up and walked over to my parents, grabbed one of each of their hands and looked up and smiled, happy to wait next to both of my loving parents. When I really think about it, I have been blessed beyond measure. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what we want and forget about everything that our loving Father has given us. What He has given us far outweighs what we don’t have. Ephesians 5:20 tells us to give thanks to God always for all things.

I still have no idea who that little girl was, but I hope one day I can meet her. I call her Joy because of the attitude of pure joy and thankfulness she exuded at that Feast. I plan on apologizing to her and then telling her how much of an impact she has had on me. Fifteen years later, her attitude still remains clear and timeless in my memory. I will always be thankful for her example.