There was no reason for this. I’d traveled from Ithaca to Denver via Detroit. I should have been cranky. And I had been most of the day. But then, fifteen hours after boarding the early morning plane I found myself sitting on a folding chair on the lawn outside Temple Emanuel in Denver, with my sister and cousins and a hundred or more strangers hanging onto cellphones, children, and dogs. Under a graying evening sky we sat, listening as the temple’s cantor played her guitar and sang like an angel, and asked us to rise-if-able, and be seated, and rise-if-able again and greet those around us.
This was not a scene I’d usually find comfortable. But sitting there in the gentle breeze I forgot about how many hours I hadn’t slept. I forgot about the harsh descent into the dry brown desert surrounding Denver International, and the haze that hid any possible view of the nearby Rocky Mountains. My sore back and restless leg syndrome grew faint and almost disappeared. Soon it no longer mattered that I couldn’t see the mountains or any decent-sized body of water. Something in the music or in the air had squelched every ache and disappointment. I melted back into my chair and smiled at the kids playing quietly with dogs as the cantor continued her songs. At peace with the world, I watched the sky, grateful to be exactly where I was.
I even joined in some of the singing.
And even though the people were singing in praise of God, and even though I myself had not spoken to God in many years (or even checked in briefly to see if anything had changed in our relationship), I’m pretty sure if I lived anywhere near that mile-high-in-the-sky city of Denver, I’d be going back to the Friday evening services at the temple every week to recapture my moment of pure, perfect happiness.
When and where did your unexpected moment of joy happen?