I pity anyone within earshot of my voice whenever I see our grandbabies. They elicit pure joy in me. My voice rises to such an annoying pitch that the dog starts barking.
Years ago, I read a story about a woman who brought joy to thousands of strangers while working in a large department store in New York City. For 30 years, her job was to sit outside the fitting room of the lingerie department and count the items each customer carried in and out. She’d often accompany women in finding the correct size and fit for their undergarments. Many were cancer survivors who had endured radical mastectomies.
For three decades, sensitivity and kindness were her trademarks as she assisted in restoring a sense of confidence and femininity. I guess we all do what we have to do in life, but some people do it with grace.
As far back as I can remember, I have wanted to be “talented.” I’ve tried sports, sewing, calligraphy, gardening, and crocheting to no avail. One year, I decided to take piano lessons. It was painful for my husband and sons who are naturally gifted musicians.
I finally gave up my quest for talent and decided to find joy in whatever I am doing, however well I am doing it. The result: Life is much more enjoyable.
Agnes Rabita was my husband’s grandmother. Although she stood a mere 4 feet 5 inches, she was a powerhouse. She humbly and generously devoted her life to her marriage and family while successfully running a restaurant with her husband. Her kids, grandkids, employees, and neighbors loved her dearly.
Although Agnes was dealt her share of trials in life, she woke up every morning and got to work, making the most of each day. She taught me that true joy comes from trusting that you are where you are supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to be doing.
In 1981, we went to visit Grandma Agnes at her home. The TV volume was turned up as a boxing match between Larry Holmes and Leon Spinks had just ended. I had no idea that Grandma loved boxing. With spunky animation, she recounted the fight for us. Her little fists were up and throwing punches in the air as she recalled every detail of the three rounds. Describing the knockout, she swung the dishtowel off her shoulder. As you can imagine, everybody got a kick out of Grandma Agnes!
Two days before Agnes passed away, my mother-in-law went to visit her at the nursing home. Agnes was peacefully lying on her back in bed with her eyes closed, smiling. Grandma knew what she was doing. She was going home, and it made her smile.
Sadly contemplating the nearness of her mother’s passing, my mother-in-law asked, “Mama, why are you smiling?”
In classic Agnes style, she softly sang to her daughter: “When you’re smiling, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you. When you’re laughing, when you’re laughing, the sun comes shining through.”
I suppose we are all given opportunities to both bring and receive joy from the moment we arrive to the moment we depart.
Bernadette Bonanno lives in Albany, New York. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.