In a park early this morning, I had a thought about the joy I have been experiencing lately. The feelings I experienced following this initial thought started with guilt but then morphed into something different.
But first, let me introduce myself.
I am Erick Peterson, and I am the new Hermiston Herald editor and senior reporter. Some of you know me already, as I have lived in Hermiston for almost exactly four years. A handful of you may have only recently met me, as I have been trying to make new contacts around Hermiston, Umatilla, Irrigon, Echo and Stanfield. I have been making friends.
My life is pretty good right now. (I am sorry to boast.) I have a loving family, entertaining hobbies and a new job. What is more, I seek joy almost constantly.
Troubles beset the world; yet, I try to find ways to be happy. I read novels, listen to pop music, dance and try new things. Ironically, this joy also is a source of guilt. A single question enters my mind.
Is it right to seek joy while the world burns? I wonder. We are in the midst of a pandemic, with people dying every day. Meanwhile, environmental degradation, war and injustice continue to rage.
As disaster builds, I know of many people who cannot choose joy. Situations beyond their control limit their options. Poverty and politics, for example, keep them from doing much except for suffering. Their worlds are bleak. There is nothing they can do.
It is privilege that allows me to be happy — privilege due to nationality, just to name one example.
And though it is not fair that other people suffer while I do not, I am able to hold off my guilt with a couple of truths.
First, I am a helper. I look for people in need, and I have given money and other assistance to them. I also keep unprivileged peoples in mind when I vote, as part of helping is to hold government accountable for assisting the needy.
The second thought is this: Joy begets joy. When I seek joy, I create joy for other people. For example, I find pleasure in making dinner for my wife. Sometimes, she will join me in this activity, and we are happy together. Joy follows as we eat together, whether or not our product is tasty.
When we would share dinners with groups of friends (in the “long-long-ago,” pre-pandemic days), our joy would increase, as would theirs. We would share, laugh and talk. Often, our talks would lead to discussions of how we could help one another in other ways.
Misery, however, is rarely as productive as joy. When I have ruminated over troubles in the world, little good has come of it. Misery leads to more misery. There have been times when I have been in bed for days, sad, with nothing to show for it. Therefore, if I can choose, I will choose to seek joy.
This will not be the end of my guilt. At times, this feeling will reappear. When it does, it will be a reminder of my need to be a better helper. Perhaps I will need to reach out to more friends, or maybe I will look for local charities to which I can volunteer. Maybe the Agape House needs some help.
It is just a thought.