Giving In to Joy

Ed. Note: John and Peter’s online/dial-up conversation with Edd Conboy on August 4 inspired a thought-provoking email exchange with Jeannie Masterson on scarcity, gifts, joy and abundance. Enjoy!


Peter, John, Edd –

I listened to your conversation today, enjoying and being stretched.  I then went on to prepare prayer services for my team, and came across this poem by Mary Oliver that I thought was pertinent to today’s topic.  Enjoy!

Jeannie Masterson, CSJ


Don’t Hesitate (Mary Oliver in Swan)


If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,

don’t hesitate.  Give in to it.  There are plenty

of lives and whole towns destroyed or about

to be.  We are not wise, and not very often

kind.  And much can never be redeemed. 

Still, life has some possibility left.  Perhaps this

is its way of fighting back, that sometimes

something happens better than all the riches

or power in the world.  It could be anything,

but very likely you notice it in the instant

when love begins.  Anyway, that’s often the

case.  Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid

of its plenty.  Joy is not made to be a crumb


Dear Sister Jeannie;

A wonderful poem. Thank you. Why do you think we hesitate to “give in” to joy?



Dear Sister Jeannie,

I’d like to add my thanks for the poem as well.

When thinking of joy, I often recall a talk I attended by Lama Chime Rinpoche, one of the lamas displaced from Tibet along with the Dalai Lama. He was speaking to his students, and he said, “It is your responsibility to sustain joy in your life … and that is very serious business…” and then he began to laugh.

Joy is a wonderfully deep word. Neither he nor Mary Oliver were speaking of happiness.

Maybe we instinctively know that if we were to “give in” to joy, there would be no turning back … and that is serious business!

Just a thought.

Thanks again.



Thanks to all of you – to think that people as busy as you would respond so quickly to a simple email – WOW!!!  That certainly makes me “give in” to joy! 

Personally, I believe our culture has become so obsessed with scarcity, so afraid of being without, that we simply don’t know how to think otherwise … so we react to gifts with suspicion rather than embrace.  Folks like you are helping us change the cultural mindset by pointing out another way, and asking, “How else might you respond?  What alternatives are you willing to consider?”


I’m grateful to you: for your witness by example, your willingness to host conversations like yesterday’s that highlight an effective alternative that keeps sparking our juices to be serious about the business of joy.


In my religious profession, we’re challenged to bring people to the real, deep belief that WE ARE ALREADY REDEEMED!  Our work is to help one another to live in a way that expresses that belief, which is also serious and joyful business.








Home page image: insouciance

About the Lead Author

Jeannie Masterson
Jeannie Masterson
Jeannie Masterson, CSJ is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph in Cincinnati and serves on its leadership team.

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