Joy Metrics

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“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”
~ Karl Barth

You cannot measure joy. You just have to experience it.

This weekend, as I walked home from our Refuge Spring Market, exhausted, peopled-out, and sore, there was another feeling superseding all the others that I could not ignore: Joy. And joy made me so grateful to live and work with some of the most exceptionally joyful people I’ve ever known.

Our team always debriefs, but after a community event like this one, it’s way more fun to bask in the joy and gratitude we feel. In fact, reveling in a good day’s work (that took months to plan and execute) is one of the things that keeps us going. 

Photos by Kayla Johnson –

The rub for every nonprofit leader who relies on metrics to raise money is that joy is hard to measure. Even so, I’m going to try to quantify the joy for you anyway. If you like numbers because they help you to “see” things more clearly, here’s a list of some joy-makers we experienced at our Spring Market last Saturday:

  1. 65 Vendors (11 food vendors and 54 artisans and crafters) – Historically, we’ve seen many of these vendors go on to start their own businesses, and so this weekend we saw that potential abound!
  2. 34 Volunteers
  3. 1500+ shoppers
  4. 1 amazing DJ who kept our feet tapping
  5. 3 of our neighbors making up the Cary & Friends Bluegrass band, who made us want to dance

If you can’t catch the joy-bug from these numbers, check out the photos by the talented Kayla Johnson.

Photos by Kayla Johnson –

More on the Subject

For some reason, Barth’s quote about joy makes me think of another one. A twisted one.

If you have memorized “The Princess Bride” like my family has, you’ll remember Buttercup’s dream in which her future father-in-law dies and her new husband, Humperdinck, introduces her as his queen with the supposed last words of his father, “Love her as I loved her, and there will be joy.”

Photos by Kayla Johnson –

Ironic words because this is a nightmare outcome. If Humperdinck had his way, and the story played out this way, there would be no joy. His character is a self-serving tyrant who couldn’t make people genuinely joyful even if he tortured them (which he tried to do). This story tells the truer story that joy cannot be decreed nor manipulated. It just shows up.

As I said, you cannot measure joy. You have to experience it. So, beyond the numbers shared earlier, here are a few snapshots of joy from my perspective:

Our teams sold the heck out of the “Everybody Matters” t-shirts. The first person to purchase one was a man who stopped by for a cup of coffee as we were setting up tents and chairs. I asked him if he was there to volunteer, and he told me he was in town for an Ethne board meeting. I’d never met him, but he knew Bill, and his eyes got a little misty as I explained the shirts. Joy!

Several young volunteers asked if they could take coffee around to all of the vendors. Joy!

My friend and former Refuge Coffee trainee, Nisar, sat with a few of us during lunch and said, “Refuge has made Clarkston beautiful!” (I’d edit that to be that we simply set the stage for people like him to beautify our town.) Joy!

Photos by Kayla Johnson –

I walked home for a quick break, and as I walked back I met six young 5th grade boys, two from Congo, two from Malaysia, and two from Afghanistan. In exchange for hibiscus tea and cotton candy, they stayed and helped with clean-up. Then they asked if we had any other jobs for them. Joy!

I think I’ve always known that if Refuge could gather our community in ways that highlight the beauty and heroism and resourcefulness of our refugee and immigrant neighbors, there would be joy! But that joy is far deeper and better than I imagined.

Thank you for joyfully joining us by giving, volunteering, and drinking coffee!


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