On the weekends, and the occasional weeknight; I will burn some of my hound Xena’s nervous energy by taking her for a car ride. She loves the breeze slapping up against her face, flapping her massive ears back and forth; I love the fact that I can let my mind roam behind the wheel. During one particular automotive jaunt last week; our master-canine drive took on a whole new meaning.
The evenings have been hot and dry in Colorado Springs for the past month. This is the result of unseasonably high temperatures, low humidity, and a series of forest fires burning all over the state. The smoke not only serves to insult the lungs; it also acts as a blanket that magnifies the heat on the ground.
Xena had grown tired of the hot air in her face and had nestled onto the center well between the two front seats of the car. She was now enjoying the benefits of a steady stream of air conditioned refreshment across her face. The dog’s long torso stretched well into the back seat, where she had balanced her haunches. Having come to a red light, both of us were looking through the windshield at the world in front of us.
Out on the corner of the intersection was a young man, a piece of cardboard in hand and sweat trickling down his face. I fully expected some message of economic misfortune to be scrawled in black marker across stained cardboard. Instead, I was greeted with a neon bright sign that proclaimed the mattress of my dreams was on sale at the nearby mall. The man was lifting the advertisement up and down as he danced on the blistering hot sidewalk. Ear buds lodged into his skull, he was fully enjoying what I presumed was hip-hop based upon the dance moves he was sharing with all of us. His next act had me chuckling; as he began to air guitar with the sign, his reflective sunglasses bouncing up and down on the bridge of his nose!
A series of horn blasts from the cars behind me signaled that the light had obviously turned to green and that I was delaying everyone from getting to their destination. I accelerated slowly and managed to catch the “salesman” in my rear-view mirror. In spite of the near 100-degree temperature, he was merrily executing a lively series of steps, hips turning, and a broad smile etched on his face. Even Xena looked up and gave me a “is he out of his mind look!”
Headed back towards home, I wished I could personally thank whatever brilliant individual had invented automotive air conditioning. I was actually able to see waves of heat coming up from the pavement in front of me! The heat was simply intolerable and yet moments ago I had witnessed somebody dancing in it! He had to really be hurting for employment to take on his task in this weather. I truly felt empathy for him, but at least he was working and trying to better his lot.
The remainder of the ride back to our air conditioned house was filled with my mental images of this poor soul out in the heat. The odd part of it all was that he had seemed so happy in what he was being asked to do. The smile on his face had been genuine and there was no mistake that he was enjoying his music and resulting dance. In fact, it seemed like he was oblivious to the heat and the demeaning nature of his work!
The dots began to magically connect themselves in my mind. This young human advertisement was indeed savoring what he was doing. He had managed to fuse passion with the mundane; expressing a level of joy that is all too rare. He was in such a state of ecstasy that the heat and the intense sunlight had little effect on him. In short, he was truly in a state of bliss.
I started ticking off items on my mental list of why I felt pity for him. First, I had thought his employment choice was demeaning. Somehow, based upon the look of sheer joy on his face; I was sadly mistaken. Second, I had equated his labor to a slave-like toiling in the basking sun. Yes, he had been in a full sweat; yet he had managed to keep up his series of dance step, twirls, and air guitar renditions! Apparently I was off on all counts!
We have a tendency to place a negative spin on all things related to work. Toil, labor, employment, working in the salt mines, rowing the galley; they all imply our chosen work is a result of servitude. Yet one young man, on a street corner, during a scorching afternoon, managed to prove all of that wrong!
It appears that true joy cannot be extinguished by physical challenges! The test is whether we can summon up that level of joy within ourselves. Each of us facing a daily choice; we can trudge off to work with our heads hung low or we can put a spring in our step with our eyes held high. As for me, I will be searching for some headphones, polishing my dancing shoes, and cutting out a cardboard guitar before Monday!