Joseph Avenue Christmas is the story of one man's journey to the true meaning of Christmas. Not just the birth of the babe, but the salvation of the soul. Set on the wintry streets of Rochester, NY it is a visit to the heart of that city and the hearts of some of its best and bravest people. From their good example, and the simple lessons of their own lives and faith, a troubled man finds on a dark Christmas Eve an escape from an increasingly failed life.
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In life I have known and observed many people.
It's really what I've done for a living.
I have seen that people can have great joy or sorrow in their lives, that they can be happy or sad, caught up in celebration or brought down in mourning. And I've learned that those things typically have nothing whatsoever to do with their circumstance in life.
There is not always a connection between good things happening and happiness, or bad things happening and sadness.
Mood, I think, is far more the result of attitude and personality than it is of environment. I've seen people laugh in hell and sob in heaven.
And mostly I've seen people sob because they needed permission to laugh. It somehow had never dawned on them that joy was an option. I think sometimes this is the result of unrealistic expectations, a basic ignorance of what life is truly like.
They march gloomily through their existance looking for a party and never realizing that they have passed blindly through it. They never learn to appreciate the joys that life offers, instead they focus irrationally on the disappointments.
I heard a quote about that the other day in church. It was read by a man who saw it posted on his father's refrigerator and copied it to hang on his own office wall. I got a copy from him and have similarly thumb-tacked up in my studio.
Here's what it says:
"Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he's been robbed.
"The fact is that most putts don't drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise.
"Life is like an old-time rail journey -- delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts -- interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.
"The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."
The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride. That is the key. The fundamental realization and gratitude that life is, by it's essential nature, good. And even in its monotonous routines and mundane duties it offers us something wonderful and worthwhile.
They are only lives of "quiet desperation" when we fail to understand them. When we fail to appreciate what it is we have been sent here to appreciate.
I learn by watching people, and I have observed that many people throw their lives away.
They do so by wanting what they don't have and by spurning what they do. We live in a world of movie stars and love songs, where television characters never want for money and where novels never end sadly. But we don't live in books or television, we live in the real world where things sometimes turn out poorly.
And it is up to us to decide how to react to that.
With a native joy, or with a native gloom.
I choose joy. I choose to see the adversities and disappointments of life as completely natural and normal. I choose to see them as things which exist in my life, but not which dominate my life.
And I think that's a good philosophy. Because things are going to happen, good or bad, and we typically can't control them. We can only control our reactions to them.
And I choose to react with optimism and delight.
Because I figure it beats the alternative.