THE late Erma Bombeck relates an incident about being in church one Sunday. She was intent on watching “a small child who was turning around smiling at everyone.” She reports that…
…he wasn’t gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, tearing the hymnal, or rummaging through his mother’s handbag. He was just smiling. Finally, his mother jerked him about and in a stage whisper that could be heard in a little theater off Broadway, said, “Stop that grinning! You’re in church!” With that she gave him a belt on his hindside, and as the tears rolled down his cheeks she added, “That’s better,” and returned to her prayers.
Erma Bombeck wrote:
“Suddenly I was angry. I wanted to grab this child with the tear stained face close to me and tell him about God. The happy God. The smiling God. The God who had to have a sense of humor to have created the likes of us….I wanted to tell the child I’ve taken a few lumps in my time for daring to smile at religion….What a fool, I thought. Here was a woman sitting next to the only light left in our civilization, the only hope, our only miracle, our only promise of infinity. If a child couldn’t smile in church, where was there left to go? ”
The opposite of joy is cynicism. Cynicism is a sense that, at its core, all life is disconnected and without meaning and value. Cynicism lives for dis-integration and distrust, it feeds on, and flourishes in a world of suspicion.
To be light hearted – or different – does not mean to be nonchalant and uncaring. It is to refuse to accept the currency of cynicism and despair. It is to be caught up in the wonder of our world and in the great power of God’s love to bring healing and wholeness to us and to our world.