by Teresa Goins
Sometimes, simply thinking about the exuberance of young teens makes us older persons tired! Even so, as someone at least four times their elder, my conviction is to daily aspire to be more like them! In this article, we will study and appreciate the gorgeous-yet-seldom-used French term joie de vivre [ˌZHwä də ˈvēvrə] as it applies to the vitality and enthusiasm of young people. My prayer is that this exercise will arouse in us a new zest for life and a desire to be young at heart all over again.
God created us with a spring in our step, and joie de vivre describes just that. According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, joie de vivre translates in English as the pure joy of living.* Babies find bliss in a naive giggle … toddlers find marvelous discoveries in the slightest of things … adolescents find wonder just playing in the rain ... young teens find purpose in simple friendships … but adults find themselves too busy, too tired, and way too stressed to enjoy the precious life God has given. Colossians 1:11 says, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance … with joy.” Young people possess a jubilant get-up-and-go that doesn’t always extend into adulthood. How then can we recapture the pleasure and dynamism we knew as children? Perhaps, we can learn from the vibrant young people that grace our lives every day.
Unpretentiously, joie de vivre is a feeling of great delight in the sheer idea of being alive! Many adults today need to re-kindle a sense of excitement, no matter the current task or circumstance. For most kids (at least through the age of 12 or 13, depending upon the individuals’ temperament), everything is an adventure! A teenager equates being super busy and occupied to being happy. When young people are going and doing, they are content, but adults sometimes dread just being. In many cases, we have become boring beings that have forgotten the excitement of living in the moment. When one meager dollar bill is handed to a five-year-old, his face lights up as if it had been a million! We need a reminder that it is in the small things that great blessings unfold.
Perhaps, adults need also to re-learn play. Not everything is about work, and young people understand that. It is our responsibility to instill in our young people a good work ethic but also our privilege to learn from them a healthy measure of fun. Adults today take medication to go to sleep, implore special breathing techniques to relax, and must find their ‘happy place’ to get rid of anxiety. We blame our lack of peace on an overwhelming accountability to duty and obligation but fail to remember the old proverb that states so innocently, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The average young person doesn’t have trouble sleeping or relaxing, and his happy place is in the glorious present!
Lastly, many adults need to re-awaken the faith they once had in themselves. Young people may have more physical energy than we do, but the attributes of vivacity, vitality, and vigor do not always come from a physical plane but from the way we think. If we believe we are old, we will act old. In general, young people believe they can do anything – scale the highest mountain, swim the deepest sea – but the distractions and disappointments of the added years can taint the adult’s personal belief system. Ardor and zeal inspired by true passion and enthusiasm is the élan we are lacking. May we ignite the spark within us that will set afire a new confidence in our worth and purpose, even at a later stage in life.
Young people make us laugh, make us cry, but most importantly, make us remember the joys of our youth. Their example teaches us to strive for a renewed excitement, a healthy bit of fun, and a refurbished faith in ourselves, which will in the end, produce a genuine, newfound childlike joy. To find joie de vivre is to find true happiness in this life. “It is not joy that makes us grateful [but] gratitude that makes us joyful,” so, “Find joy in the ordinary!” (authors anonymous). Emily Dickinson said it best: “Find ecstasy in life: the mere sense of living is joy enough.”**