Joy is Best SharedDec 14, 2023
In a recent Amazon commercial (“Joy Ride”), three older women enjoy each other’s company on a bench as kids boisterously sled in the background. These women are good friends, likely long-time friends, as they seem content to just be with each other. No need for words. They look wistfully towards the youth, each reminiscing of times past when they frolicked in the snow.
One of the women has an idea. Using Amazon, of course, she orders cushions for herself and her friends. Cushions to be used with a sled. Moments later (she must have used Prime because the cushions appear in minutes!), the three women place the cushions on their respective sleds and cannon down the hill, faster than some of the kids. The tables have turned: now the kids look longingly at the elders who are thoroughly enjoying their joy ride with hands in the air and spirited howls.
Towards the end, there is a flashback with each of the women replaced by her younger self. It’s the same place and with similar shouts of joy and shared smiles. When their ride concludes, the flashback ends but the joy remains. In fact, there is a deeper sense of joy as the friends revel in their shared experience past and present. The commercial ends with the friends dragging their sleds up for yet another ride.
Don’t Put Limits on Opportunities for Shared Joy
There are a number of lessons from the commercial. One, it’s best to not put limits on ourselves. There can be a temptation to assume we’re too old or too young for a certain activity or experience. Too old to swing in the playground or too young to do something ambitious, like write a book. To be fair, there are legal restrictions or strong advice from experts on what may not be wise, but it often doesn’t come to that. Instead, we tend to put the limit on ourselves.
In this story, each of the women should be applauded. The leader should be commended for acting upon her idea and her friends for enthusiastically embracing the opportunity – risks of broken bones be damned.
Maintaining Friendships Takes Effort
Lifelong relationships don’t just happen. They take considerable effort over a sustained period of time and through various life stages. There are a fixed number of childhood friends one has, and it decreases over time as relationships fade. Dutch sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst has showed that we replace half our social network over the course of seven years. It’s particularly sad when lifelong friendships dissolve.
For this reason, it’s important that we choose to stay in touch with our longtime friends and by any means necessary. Weekly phone calls, reunions, shared adventures (like Sufferfest), and more.
Maintaining Friendships Benefits from Proximity
One way to stay in touch with dear friends is to live proximate to each other. Why not live next door to your best friends? (See “Live Closer to Your Friends” from The Atlantic.) Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana and, more recently, the former President of Purdue University, offers advice to graduates in his 2020 commencement speech, “Geographic rootedness makes a difference; people who live in the same community for extended periods are far less likely to be lonely.” He quotes C.S. Lewis, “Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods … the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young person about where to live, I (would) say ‘sacrifice almost everything to live near your friends.”
If we can’t live near our dear friends, we are best to get together regularly to experience the peaceful contentment that lifelong friendships offer. Peaceful contentment works much better in person. On the phone, silence suggests disinterest, something troubling or a dropped call. But in person, no explanation is necessary. The closeness of the three women is evident and no doubt abetted by their proximity.
Joy is Best Shared
Joy can be a singular experience. Soaking in a sunrise. Hiking to the top of a mountain. Observing wildlife.
But joy is best shared. Even better when amongst close friends. During this holiday season and into the new year, look for opportunities to experience joy and to do so in person with others. Sledding is optional.
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