Encouraging Joy and Happiness

A Message from Maria Coutant Skinner, President & CEO

Dear friends,

Many years ago, I was sitting next to my brother in church on Christmas Eve while we listened to a parishioner read the story of the birth of Christ.  She said: “On the night that Jesus was born, the angel told the shepherds that if they would go looking in Bethlehem, they would find ‘the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger’”.  What I heard, however, was that the babe would be wrapped in sweaty clothes. I exploded in laughter and my brother joined me. We could not stop, even after being sternly admonished by our parents and getting looks from everyone around us. In fact, as often happens when I’ve given over to that level of silliness, those looks only serve to extend the laughter. I will admit to you, dear friends, that this has happened throughout my life more times than I can count – often at inopportune times like a Broadway show, a solemn ceremony and even at my best friends’ weddings.  I will also admit that those are some of my best memories. Laughter is my very favorite medicine.   

When was the last time you laughed until tears streamed down your face and your stomach ached? When was the last time you experienced peace, contentment or joy? I think for many of us, it’s been too long. All sorts of things can get in our way including our life’s circumstances, our mental health and the state of the world. Our days can feel very compressed with the weight of responsibilities and the fullness of the human experience on our hearts – and it can be hard to find openings to allow for the free, happy moments.  

I’m working to slow down and create those openings; it’s a process with fits and starts, like any change, but I’m noticing some lovely shifts. Every Monday night you’ll find me in an art studio taking lessons with some of my best friends and a marvelous teacher who invites me to see light, color and form in new and beautiful ways. I feel lighter. Every morning I take some time to exercise and do a little meditation. I feel freer. At least once a day I reach out to a friend or loved one who is on my mind and I check in. I feel more connected. As often as possible I try not to rush to get my to do list complete, I work to relish and appreciate the fabulous people around me.  I feel joyful. 

Joy is truly found in the singularity of the day if we can create the space to notice it. Life is not to be endured, it is a gift to be treasured and celebrated, one day at a time.  

All my best,

Maria Coutant Skinner

President & CEO