Whatever holiday you celebrate, this time of year is always a mixed bag. The delight and the sorrows that accompany any major event are all here in a time of high expectation, and sometimes, regret.

So many of us have been dealt a harsh break, whether it’s the death of a loved one from Covid or other illness; the loss of a job or even a business; or the inability to perform and carry on as we have previously enjoyed our lives. It would be easy to be depressed. Many are.

But I’m here as a voice in the bleak midwinter to remind us that while we sometimes have to sift through tons of negativity to find one nugget of joy, it does indeed exist. Joy is always there, in the smallest detail or the biggest smile. Joy remains a beacon in the dark night, although at times we need strength and courage to see it.

I know a young woman in the UK whose parents were my close friends; they died within a year of each other. I’ve known E since she was in her teens and watched her blossom from a shy, indecisive child to a strong young woman with a loving partner. Now in her early 30s, she helped her father through the loss of her mother, and then soon after, became his caregiver and kept him home as they dealt with the cancer that took his life. She described to me crawling into bed beside him as he failed, to feel his warmth one last time. Exhausted and sad, she dozed off. When she woke, he was gone. She was sad, and probably on many days overwhelmed, yet she said to me, “I must keep my face turned to the sun.”

When my husband and I both had cancer diagnosed within a month of each other last year, I teased him that in thirty years of marriage, I knew we enjoyed doing things together, but this was carrying things a bit too far! There were days of indecision and fear, but ultimately, we’ve had more days of feeling blessed. Blessed that ours was found early and without spread. Blessed that our treatments, while uncomfortable and with side effects that still plague us both, are not as severe as those we’ve seen others go through. And we’re still here, looking for joy in the smallest parts of our day.

I was watching the news today and there was a story of travelers on a plane becoming combative over wearing a mask. Only a few minutes later, I came across a video someone sent me that said, “You need to watch this.” It showed a young boy opening a Christmas present, a photo of the foster family he’s been living with. Then he read out the letter that came with it, which I paraphrase here: “This is our family as we were before. Now we would like you to become a true member of our family; our son and brother. Would you like that?” This young man burst into tears–and so did I.

That simple act of love changed that young boy’s life forever. Those are the stories we need to focus on. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but this year I will try avoid negative news and seek out more joyful heartwarming stories that warm my heart, while I turn my face to the sun.

Happy New Year to you and those you love~