JOY

When you see the word child, what image comes to mind?

Maybe it’s pigtails and carefree, silly laughter. Or perhaps it’s the smile on a young soccer player’s face after their first goal. But maybe, you know of (or were) a child who did not have a worry-free life. Maybe when you see the word child, you picture an orphanage.

The thing is, children should be carefree and silly. But sadly, so many endure shame, abandonment, fear, and pain instead.

I recently met a little girl who was in the foster care system. Fortunately, she was with a sweet family who loved her as one of their own. She had this infectious smile despite her situation. Her mom had just been arrested for the second time and was in prison. But this precious child still radiated joy, peace, and kindness.

Her circumstances were not happy.

She didn’t have her own bed covered in dozens of stuffed animals.

She didn’t have a mom taking her to dance class.

But still, she had joy.

I watched her in awe as she played with a doll and giggled with the other children. As I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder, “how is it possible for her to seem so happy?” Even though she was hurting, she radiated something special.

Often, that something special we sense is a deep joy—a simple but powerful three-letter-word. The brilliant author and speaker Danny Williamson described the joy we so innately desire in a soon-to-be-released book Where’s the Joy? He said we all long for a “radical and immovable joy, which doesn’t fade when life hits the fan. Joy is more than an emotion or feeling. It’s a lifestyle we are invited to daily.”

Joy is a choice. It’s something we must continually say “yes” to for hope to take root in our lives.

As a community, we can roll up our sleeves and help a child know they belong. We can give hope in a “hopeless” situation.

Our very own Sandra, designer, and founder of Will & Ivey grew up understanding that regardless of circumstances, each life is valuable and worthy of love, care, and kindness. The inspiration behind Sandra’s heart for generosity is her mom, who was left abandoned on the streets of San Francisco at seven-years-old. Now eighty-five-years old, Sandra’s mom still has the stuffed animal she received right before her adoption.

So, Will & Ivey brought the idea of adding the “TAK PAK” program to Tennessee Alliance for Kids, an organization focused on the foster care system and the children in their care. And they said “Yes! We would love for that to be a part of the program. That is a huge need.” So along with designing, Sandra has been volunteering to develop and maintain the TAK PAK program. TAK PAKs are backpacks that contain essentials and comfort items for children entering the foster care system. Like Sandra’s mom, these items are all they have during a scary situation. They bring a sense of belonging. A sense of hope. They say, “You are seen, you are loved, and you are chosen.”  

We hope you choose joy today. Whether you smile at the stranger in the checkout line or put together a backpack for a child in foster care … help people feel the kind of joy that stays in good times and in bad.

We need volunteers who want to help spread joy! If you are interested, please reach out to sandra@tnallianceforkids.org.

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