I recently read a quote, "Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people." It immediately reminded me of my friend Erika who expels more good energy than anyone I know. The photos above are a very clear depiction of who she is: always bright, always smiling, always full of JOY. When I first met Erika, it was on a SoulCycle bike. We rode next to each other and she was so genuinely supportive while I huffed and puffed next to her. After class, she took the time to tell me how much she enjoyed riding together and hoped it would happen again soon. It didn't take much longer to reconnect as we both turned out to be die-hard SoulCycle fans. We chatted more frequently and discovered we had mutual friends. Within a few weeks, Erika learned about my volunteer work with Seattle's Union Gospel Mission and their Search & Rescue program. She asked me to meet for coffee and to tell her all about it. We did, and she said she had to join me. The next available opening I had, she came. It was that night that I really got to see Erika shine. Even though it was her first experience with Search & Rescue, she made the rest of the first-time volunteers feel at ease, and she brought warmth and happiness to the folks we were serving through her conversations and humor. From that moment on, she has been one of my Search & Rescue regulars, and she has also become a dear friend.
That night, I also learned Erika's motto, "be joyful." I've heard people talk a lot about having joy in their lives - myself included - but Erika is the first person I've actually witnessed living it so successfully. She approaches every moment - the good and the bad - with a joyful heart. It's so easy to be happy when things are going well, but to also find happiness in the difficult times... well, that's a gift. Erika's kindset has helped reshape my own. I can't help but looking at every decision I make without asking, "does this bring me joy?" or "does what I'm doing bring joy to others?" I'm more aware of how deliberately I approach the easiest and hardest moments in my life.
I'm so thankful to know this whirlwind of joy we call Erika Jayne. She never stops talking, but she never stops listening either. She is intent on being the kind of friend you can always lean on, and she never wants to stop serving the communities in which she belongs. Her energy is endless. I love learning from her, being around her, discovering joy with her. Erika's interview is a must-read. I promise you, if you need a little goodness today, this will do it. EnJOY.
Q: Since first meeting you, I have loved your personal motto “be joyful.” But more than just words, it is so evident in how you live your life. Do you remember when you first adopted that motto and why?
Answer: I wish I could say I have always approached life with this mantra but it has been something that has grown with me. Growing up, life certainly didn't play out how I would've chosen all the time and there were (and sometimes still are) days I really wrestled with bitterness (HUGE stealer of joy), disappointment, and anger and it impacted everything in a not great way; how I interacted with others, what I believed about people, etc. Then, during my Freshman year in college I was lucky enough to get to work on Summer Staff at the Young Life Camp Malibu and spent a month serving non-stop, and it was during this time I had never felt more joy. I came back with incredible perspective and this belief that as much as joy is a feeling it is also a choice and it is an ACTION. It became simpler; if you want more joy -- be joyful.
Q: When you find yourself in a difficult or challenging situation, how do you find joy?
Answer: It isn't always easy. I definitely don't want people to think that joy is the only emotion they should ever feel. There are definitely moments, days, or seasons where the dominant emotion might not be joy. What I have found though for me is that when I fight for joy and actively pursue it even in the midst of challenge or trial it is worth all of my effort. That joy might be small -- listening to a favorite song, enjoying a favorite afternoon coffee or it might be bigger; calling a friend and letting them know what is going on and realizing that someone else has my back and the joy that is friendship. In some of life's hardest moments it is important to remember that asking for help, or setting boundaries or saying no to things that push you further from joy might be the exact thing you need. One of my favorite quotes is: "joy is a decision, a really brave one about how you are going to respond to life".
Q: How do you think your kindset has evolved or expanded by trying to find the joy in all you do?
Answer: Ah! In short my life has become incredibly full. I often will say sometimes it is hard to hold so many good things at once -- and this is a much better place to be than when bitterness, anger, or resentment fill my space. I have actively chosen to surround myself with experiences that bring me perspective; I have become more engaged and connected to those around me; I have let little things go; I have learned to not care about things that I don't actually care about (try it); and I have become wildly more grateful.
Q: I know that one thing that brings you the greatest joy is service to others. Can you tell us about some of the volunteer work that you do and how you chose to work with those organizations?
Answer: Yes! I am lucky enough to live in a place and be surrounded by people who LOVE to serve as well and am also a total "yes" person so I have to be thoughtful in what I chose to jump into because its impossible to do it all. I think its good to remember not every cause has to be the one for you -- pick something you align with or care about.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation -- One of my close friends has worked for this org for 10+ years and I have had the privilege to hear about the incredible work this organization does. I have always been especially passionate about ways to help children and this organization is centered around supporting children and families who have Cystic Fibrosis (a chronic illness you are born with that primarily affects lung function). My friend was great enough to invite me to learn more or participate however I could and now I am lucky enough to be part of the Tomorrow's Leaders Board. In fact you should all come to our next fun event, the Ballard Feastival, in October!
UGM -- Well I am sure you can all guess how I got to be part of this incredible group ;) (thanks Di)! After hearing about the tremendous success UGM has in tackling the issues of homelessness and their approach to supporting the homeless individuals in our communities I knew I wanted to be part of supporting this work. Getting to go out on the Love Van has been one of the absolute highlights of my week. I have learned so much about the reality and also misconceptions of homelessness, I have gained remarkable perspective and gotten to enter in the lives of incredible people.
Q: You are an incredibly busy person – you spend time with family and friends, work full-time, teach at Bar Method, and coach middle school/high school sports. Why do you think it’s important to carve out time to serve others?
Answer: SO many reasons but some key ones for me:
To become a more empathetic, kind and compassionate individual. When you go out and serve you instantly gain perspective and are able to better connect with those around you.
Because there is tremendous need all around us. Whatever your cause is, whatever your passion there is a population connected who could use support.
To grow. To serve is certainly a challenge and it is one of the best ways to grow. You have the chance to learn more about your talents and gifts and also to see where you may have the chance to build or change.
Because it feels good to do good. It's okay to realize that you might also benefit from the work you are doing. And some days are hard and messy and then one day you might have a breakthrough or an awesome connection and that good feelings that create will stick in your heart and spirit and some days you will need that go back to that feeling. In a way then serving goes full circle.
Q: Speaking of MS/HS sports, not only have you found time to serve, but you also have a special place in your heart for mentoring/coaching/guiding kids. Why is that so important to you?
Answer: I have benefitted first-hand from mentors and other incredible people pouring into my life. Resilience research and other science shows that as a young person if you have at least 3 adults you trust you are incredibly more likely to be successful; your ability to adapt to adversity goes up, you develop self worth and stay away from unsafe coping mechanisms -- I could go on and on. My hope is to be that person to a kid (or multiple) at some point in life. I think all kids can use a bigger network of support, a bigger team of people who believe in all their gifts and talents and see them for exactly who they are. By entering into their world, I hope to earn the right to be an ally and a support for them.
Q: We need more role models like you in the world. What advice would you give to someone who wants to find opportunities to serve?
Answer: #humbled. First I would say figure out your passion(s). The best service is going to come by leaning into the things you already care about or have interest in. If you aren't sure what those things are -- try some stuff out. From there ask around to see what options might exist to serve connected to those passions or use the other resources around you to search and find organizations, networks etc. that also care about the things you do.
Q: Lastly, tell us your top 3 ways to be joyful.
Be in community.
Find something to help you build perspective.
Say yes to things that bring you joy and be okay saying no to the things you don't need to do that don't bring you joy.