I just completed a whirlwind trip of London and had very little time to rest and take in the sights. But a meeting cancellation opened up a magical 90 minutes to walk through Hyde Park and enjoy a rare period of London sunshine.

I came upon the glorious sculpture and fountain pictured above, “The Joy of Life” by  T. B. Huxley-Jones (1963).  I became transfixed by the uplifting theme and the sheer exuberance of the artwork.

While I was admiring the fountain, I caught a whiff of pipe tobacco smoke — the same brand used my grandfather, who died almost exactly 10 years ago.  My grandfather was a hard-working plumber who, through his craft, helped transform his hometown of Pittsburgh from a sooty mess of a place to a shiny, modern city always at the top of the “most livable” cities in America.

It could not have been easy work and he sometimes struggled to make ends meet. And yet he never complained and taught me through his example to take pleasures in the simple things that he could afford — a hearty soup, flowers in his garden, a baseball game on the radio. Such a simple life, such a joyful life.

I sat by the fountain and reflected on my friend Gabrielle Laine-Peters. I had known Gabrielle some time through Twitter but met her for the first time this week and learned that she was a woman who had looked death in the face — numerous times — and has overcome incredible hardship to re-gain an infectious spirit of joy in her life. Much of this has come through the global connections of the social web. What an inspiring woman. What a joyful woman.

As I stared into the face of the boy in the statue seeming leaping into the pool I recognized the expression of my little friend Elijah, an inner city child I mentor and help care for.

He is a boy with the odds stacked against him yet can find joy by leaping (never walking!) down steps, turning a rusty railing into a playground, and yes, leaping head-first with joy into a puddle. I learn from him constantly — he can find joy in anything.

To be human is to suffer. And yet, what defines us as individuals is how we can or cannot overcome this unavoidable pain to find meaning and joy in our lives.  Life is hard.  I am constantly thinking about how I can transform and re-frame my personal challenges into experiences of joy.  I’m still learning from these inspiring people.

How about you? Are you making joy a priority in your life?

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