When my beautiful niece, Nikki, graduated from the Doctor of Pharmacy program in Erie, PA a couple of weeks ago, I surprised her (and my mom) by flying into town for the graduation ceremony.
You can only imagine how much fun it was for me to plan such a surprise! I didn’t think I would be able to attend the graduation because I’m in the throes of my book launch events and it has been an incredibly busy time.
And then, one morning it simply occurred to me that I did not want to miss this huge occasion and a big moment of celebration for my niece.
Have you had those moments of pure clarity?
I’m so grateful when the universe gives me marching orders!
I’m so grateful when I’m in a place to listen and to follow orders.
Thus, I got online and nabbed a plane ticket, reserved a rental car, and cleared my schedule for the four days I would be away.
Then I got another universal order: “This is a milestone moment for Nikki. Make sure you let her know that she is supported by a community of people who love her dearly and who are celebrating her right now.”
Without hesitation, I sent out a bunch of emails and texts to our whole family and to Nikki’s beau to ask for a very quick response to the question, “What are some of the things you love most about Nikki?”
Simple, right? One question. A bunch of emails/texts. That started the process.
As the responses poured in, my joy expanded. Reading them was such a great primer for the upcoming visit with my family. Not only did these notes of love for Nikki make me appreciate her more, they also made me appreciate each of the family members more.
Here are just a few of the dozens of “loves” that came in:
- I love that you went for a walk with me late at night, trailing our light-up alien balloons behind us in the air as we circled the block!
- I love your upbeat spirit.
- I love that you were willing to change your baby cousin’s diaper when you were a teenager and should have been snobby. But you were so sweet and caring.
- I like that you didn’t mind when my mom and I hid in the treehouse, ready to ambush you with water balloons one day in the summer in Ohio.
- I love how you sing the wrong words to songs.
- I love that you will hop in the car and go on an adventure, anytime, anywhere.
- I love when you make really funny faces and that you always let me take photos of you with those funny faces.
- I love that you get happy at the smallest of things.
As these beautiful lists arrived, I simply copied and pasted them into a Word document. Then I formatted the text so they were all the same size and font. I printed the list out on label paper and before I cut each individual love list item, I pasted the whole 8.5 x 11 label sheet onto a bigger sheet of colorful paper. (I used different colored papers to make the Joy Jar especially colorful because my niece is a colorful gal!) Then, I cut out the individual Love List items, which were now printed on white, but backed by fun colors.
I got a pretty jar, added some twinkle lights, took my big pile of Love List items and put them into the jar with the lights. (The battery pack for the lights is Velcro’d onto the lid of the jar.) The final touches were a ribbon, a photo label for the jar, and a colorful tag.
Voila! A Joy Jar Love List!
After graduation the whole family met for dinner and I put the lit-up jar on the table like a centerpiece. After we ate, Nikki read a few of the them out loud and we all got to hear some of the love for her that had been scribed.
Nikki, my mom, and I had a slumber party that night at my mom’s house. I was so incredibly happy to be there and to have gotten to participate in such a momentous occasion. Thank goodness I listened to those marching orders to show up!
The next morning when we were having coffee, Nikki told me she stayed up late and read every single Love List item in her jar. She was so touched by everything everyone wrote about her.
I was so HAPPY that I had also listened to those marching orders to create a Joy Jar. I could see that everyone’s appreciation and love for Nikki really got in. She got to truly receive all those concrete reasons why she is such a bright light in our family and what makes her unique and lovable to all of us.
You’ve heard me say this so many times. But I will keep saying it, because this is what is key to me in life: Don’t wait; say it now.
All too often people wait until someone’s funeral to say all of these beautiful, loving things. We can forget as the days roll on, that we just don’t know how much time we have with the people we love. We can’t always count on being able to express our love “next occasion,” “when she turns 40,” “when I feel less vulnerable, less busy, less distracted.”
The work I do is driven by my deep desire to live in a world where we express our love all the time in so many ways. To live in a world where we set aside the distractions of the moment in order to focus on what is truly important: the people we love.
Pause for a moment right now and consider if there is someone in your life whom you would truly want to celebrate. Would you take the time to make them a list of love yourself or to collect lists from others who love them?
What would it take for you to make the time and space for this expression of love?
Please put it on your calendar to do in the next two weeks.
Don’t wait. If you find yourself putting it off, ask yourself, “If this person whom I love so much never got to hear the things I have to celebrate about them, how would I feel? What is more important?”
Oh, and please write and tell me who you are celebrating with a Joy Jar!
Seek celebration — even in the dark corners,
P.S. Here’s a quick 5-minute video with step-by-step instructions for making a Joy Jar. Easy peasy.
P.P.S. The Joy Jar is just one of 33 creative gift ideas in my new book, “Say it Now: 33 Creative Ways to Say I Love You to the Most Important People in Your Life.” Buy it now for yourself or for a friend. It’s a great resource when you need fresh ideas for putting love into action.