Unexpected Joy

Last weekend, there was a unicorn sighting at Molsberry Market in Santa Rosa. My friend, Dr. Jennie Snyder, posted a photo on Facebook of a smiling shopper in the produce aisle. She was wearing a bright, puffy unicorn costume.

Photo by Jennie Snyder

This was in such stark contrast to the gloom and devastation of 2020, of this week, of this moment of uncontained wildfires burning only miles from this very store, that I laughed aloud.

Of course, a unicorn!

With the mad string of unexpected events in 2020, why not a bit of magic?

Why not a totally irrational moment of joy?

Downloaded August 23rd, 2020 from https://sonomacounty.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.

This is not a time to celebrate, a stern voice in my head scolds, criticizing me for even writing this blog.

People are dying. How could you write of joy?

That voice, which I know so well, is deeply rooted in my New England W.A.S.P. heritage. My practical and productive ancestors would question such frivolity. My internal self-judge would keep me from donning that costume.

And yet, the joy of it is palpable. Joy is one of our fiercest weapons of resilience. In a time of crisis, it is so utterly unexpected, and irrational. It doesn’t require the absence of pain to exist. Joy doesn’t require a sunny day, a pandemic vaccine, an end to injustice, or the containment of wildfires.

Thank goodness, because this week has layered more tragedies and crises upon our communities. I’m not even going to describe it all here, because it’s in our news, constantly unfolding with something new.

But in the midst of it all, we can find moments of random, unjustifiable joy. They connect us in our humanity, they remind us of our resilience. Joy helps us heal together and do the hard work of facing and changing injustice in our world.

So, to the unnamed woman in the unicorn costume shopping for vegetables, I say: Bravo! If this is to be a year of non-stop surprises, let more of them be magical. Let more of them be so totally ridiculous as to make us remember—amidst the smoke and fires, amidst the pandemic and injustice, amidst the unprecedented challenges—that we can feel joy. We do.

We can create joy for one another. A perfect situation is not a prerequisite for joy. In fact, we need joy to maintain our sanity in spite of the imperfection. We need joy to cultivate our compassion. We need joy to have the courage and conviction to create a more equitable and just world.

¡Viva la resilience!


Related Readings

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, & Douglas Adams


Actions to Spread Joy & Humanity

Donate to Justice for Jacob Blake

Donate to Undocufund

I am a keynote speaker, author and educational leader helping educators teach and lead for equitable schools. My books include EL Excellence Every Day, Breaking Down the Wall & Opening Doors to Equity. I'm a descendant of colonizers and enslavers deeply committed to transforming my family legacy for healing.


  • Thomas Toy

    August 25, 2020, 11:16 am

    Love this! Each one of us lives a myth. If we didn’t, how could we create hero’s?

  • Peggy Strange

    August 27, 2020, 5:13 am

    Love this too! I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I read this. Perfect beginning to a great day!

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