The Road to Joy

Posted by Gina Prosch, Teacher and Boys Town Press Author on Nov 6th 2023

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”

The first time I encountered this idea from Karl Barth was in a 20th Century Theology class I took while in college. I thought it sounded deep and profound, and I made sure to doodle it in the margins of the class notes of my trusty three-ring binder.

Over the years I’ve seen that line pop up again and again. It’s an inspirational quotation on wall calendars and day planners. I’ve seen it calligraphed on coffee cups and etched on tchotchkes.

But ever since those blissful college days, the more that I think about that quote, the more I wonder if Barth didn’t have the idea backwards. What if joy isn’t the simplest form of gratitude?

What if gratitude is the path that leads to joy? What if one of the most reliable ways to find our joy is by focusing on gratitude instead?

Not long ago I did a staff development presentation, and during the Q&A session, one of the participants asked me how I could possibly be joyful when there are so many things wrong in the world.

I’m just old enough and rural enough to have experienced “hard life,” so after I thought for a moment, and I said, “You’re absolutely right – there are lots of things wrong in the world, but here’s one reason I’m joyful: refrigeration.”

You better believe the woman absolutely gave me the skunk eye.

But I continued, “Seriously. Think about how much better your life is because of refrigeration. You’re sitting there right now with ice in a glass of soda. Be grateful. The ice is clean, and no one had to cut blocks off the river in winter and store it in sawdust in order to make that ice in your glass possible. Be grateful. Someone in this room is probably diabetic and depends on refrigeration to keep their insulin at the proper temperature. Be grateful. And out of that gratitude, you can find joy...if you’re looking for it.”

Joy! You Find What You Look For is more than a book title– it’s become the focal point of so much of my thinking these days, a way of viewing the world.

We really do find the things we look for!!! If we want to find joy, we need to begin by being active agents in our own lives – be on the lookout for joy every single day.

If one of the simplest ways to find joy is to start by walking down the road of gratitude, then we’re at the perfect time of year to get started.

It’s November, and since we’re in the lead-up to the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s a great time to concentrate our thinking on those things for which we’re most grateful.

Focus on embracing gratitude every single day. When you really lean into a sense of profound gratitude for ALL THE THINGS, how can you not feel a sense of deep and abiding joy? Joy truly is a by-product of gratitude.

I made a Gratitude Is the Path That Leads to Joy! worksheet, and all this month at my personal blog, I’ll be keeping track of something or other I’m grateful for, something that’s #ThisDaysJoy.

Download your own copy of the sheet and see what gratitude and joy you find this month… because I guarantee it’s easier to find joy when you’re looking for it.