Finding Joy: A Lesson from Mama Dreads

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by Karen Martin

My new friend, Mama Dreads, has taught me so much in the past year just by being herself.

This is Mama Dreads. She taught me that Joy doesn’t come when things are perfect — There is Joy in every situation, and whenever we open our hearts to it.

She is easy to spot in a crowd.  She wears a straw cowboy hat decorated with silk flowers and campaign pins.  She loves mixing tie-dye, camouflage and plaid to create her unique fashion statements. (I dress to blend into the crowd.)

She does not have material comforts. (I do.)  She was homeless for a time and slept in a cemetery crypt.  She knows what it is to be homeless. (I can only imagine.)

She always tries to see the positive, while navigating through all of the negative. (That is a struggle for me.)  She freely gives hugs and encouragement to anyone who needs it. (I am not a hugger.)  She can often be heard singing or giggling in the hallways, and she starts dancing if a song inspires her to. (I have never been known to break out into song.)

She has JOY in her life, even though her life is not easy.  I have been letting my problems and worries prevent me from being joyful.  I tend to think that I need to “fix everything,” and then I will feel joy.  Mama Dreads encourages me to find the joy in my life right now, because my life will never be perfect and problem free.

 Yesterday she gave me a piece of her peace pipe — a feather tied to a leather cord with beads on it.  She told me the peace pipe is “very positive and protective.” She said, “Had to make sure you are safe when you leave us, right?”

I am honored to have it.

It is time to step out of my comfort zone and find some joy.  I think God wants all of us to have joy in our lives.

Karen Martin completed her very first year as an IVC volunteer this past service season. She spent the year at Mathewson Street Church, a Methodist church in Providence, RI, serving the homeless. Although she had organized supply drives for the homeless in the past, she says her IVC year brought her a personal, deeper understanding of the homeless and their struggles.

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