One of the things I learned 29 years ago was the difference between happiness and joy. At the age of 24, I had an endocrinologist oncologist that looked at me through his wide-rimmed glasses and said, “Ashlie you continue to display joy even when this diagnosis can be overwhelming.” I shared with him that was because when I was 17 years old a dear friend of mine died of lung cancer and in his last days would explain to me the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is an emotion in which we "experience feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure," whereas joy "is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness." We experience true joy when we achieve selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice. This was powerful to me. Joy was an emotion that sustained good or bad occurrences.
In the last 11 years, I have been able to watch as our staff has navigated combating trafficking, supported survivors through employment, and trained educational staff to form a ring of protection around our youth. There have been days when we feel like we have triumphed on behalf of those we serve and other days where we felt our movement had slipped backward. But as I watch each of our 21 staff, I realize that joy permeates our culture. Our core values are innovation, flexibility, and integrity, but joy is the foundation. We are not deterred by setbacks, but rather have that stronger feeling where we achieve selflessness. I see it in our implementation coordinator, as she pours through our curriculum to bring teachers through the social-emotional learning portion of our program, and I see it in our social workers who, even socially distanced with masks, provide the type of support our survivor clients need to get them stable and thriving in a job they want and desire.
There's research to prove that joy boosts our immune systems, fights stress and pain, and improves our chance of living a longer life.
So as 2020 comes to a close and we look back on the crazy unexpected time we have lived through, we at 3Strands Global Foundation will choose joy. That sustained emotion of goodness that is deep-rooted in a personal sacrifice that evokes satisfaction unlike any happiness could.