What brings you joy?

Reporter readers respond

“What brings you joy?”

That’s the question The Trinity Reporter asked the college community this past spring through newsletters, social media, and emails. While it’s a seemingly simple question, these days—amid a once-in-a-century global pandemic—it’s anything but.  

As Randolph “Randy” Lee ’66, director of Trinity’s Counseling and Wellness Center and associate professor of psychology, notes, “It’s clear that the pandemic has had an impact on most of us when it comes to our emotional state.” For some, he says, “these impacts will last longer than for others, but I think if we focus on resilience and trying to let ourselves bounce back as things get better, realistically and not naïvely, but also with optimism, we can minimize the long-term effects.”

Lee offers a metaphor that he says speaks to finding joy: running a hurdles race. “There are long stretches of flat, smooth ground, but you know at some point soon there will be a hurdle that you need to jump over,” he says. “Sometimes you may knock down the hurdle, and sometimes you may clear it. After the hurdle is another smooth area, but you always know there will be another hurdle. In some ways life is like that. We need to try not to focus on the hurdles and instead focus on the flat ground between them when we can be more at peace.”

So what “flat, smooth ground” helped those in the Trinity community get through the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout? What is it that brought joy? Read on to find out.

My husband, when he belly laughs, can lift the mood of an entire room. His simple, silly glee brings me an insane, heart-bursting, tears-in-my-eyes amount of joy. All the better if I’ve said or done something to crack him up like that. Pure magic.
Carla Boecklin ’01
Park City, Utah

I wanted to share something that brought me a lot of joy this past school year, which was my Jarvis dorm room. It truly was one of the prettiest rooms I’ve ever lived in. It was supposed to be a double, but because of COVID, it was a single, so it was super spacious, and I had so much fun decorating it.
– Katie Russell ’22
Grafton, Massachusetts

I find joy in sharing simple pleasures of the moment with Beth, my wife of 58 years: Drinking a coffee or tea on our screened-in back porch during a heavy rain; verbal firecrackers that stimulate thought, like “Franklin, we use the word overwhelming a lot, but I never hear whelming”; or rhyming exchanges, as we get ready to sleep. “Franklin, your words sound like you might be a poet.” And I respond, “Yes, but how else can I show it?” To which she rejoins, “You still have a long way to go it!”

None of this is profound or worth a dash in Professor Samuel Morse’s class on poetry. But it is, I believe, a derivative of Thoreau’s Walden that we read as sophomores. Thoreau wrote to describe how he had reduced life to its fundamentals. In a much different way, Beth and I have done the same thing.

Our careers—as lawyers, legislator, and author—are behind us. They are what they are and cannot be changed. Life with Beth is ongoing and changing. At our ages—85 and 82—joy comes from the present moment, as I tried to show here.                       

Franklin Kury ’58
Hummelstown, Pennsylvania

A big part of the joy in my life this spring 2021 has been meeting up with Tanya Jones, my good friend and fellow Class of 1997 graduate. We have been going on long walks in the uptown parks in New York City: Morningside, Riverside, and Central Park. Walking and talking about the ups and downs this year. Joy for us both.
Ali McCartney Auth ’97, with Tanya Jones ’97
New York, New York

I am a critical care medicine doc in Florida. This past year has been brutal at work. Too many patients, not enough beds or nurses, not enough treatments that work. Too many deaths. My little bursts of joy have been found through night sky watching and my pets. I love to be outside at night in Florida. It’s cooler for one, fewer people are out, better time to walk my dog. We live in a suburb, so the night sky is pretty visible, and Florida is flat so you get the whole sky to see. It really is uplifting. I have seen many shooting stars, moonrises, and the close alignment of Mars and Jupiter last year. We have a big dog and two cats. They are a constant source of love and laughs. I cannot imagine living without them!
Sarah A. Neilly ’81
Melbourne, Florida

My garden brings me joy. I grow flowers and veggies at Knox’s urban farm on Laurel Street in Hartford. Co-creating such bounty with the earth makes me feel like I can do anything.
Gabby Nelson
Assistant Director, Urban Engaged Learning

I realized that my whole experience building a movement in my city to create the 4C Tree Project, which stands for Capture Carbon Commemorate COVID, has been the greatest source of joy for me during this challenging pandemic. This project is to honor those who lost their lives due to COVID-19 during the pandemic by planting trees in public places so people can stop, reflect, and remember the pandemic and those who lost their lives. I am working with the nonprofit Green Newton and partnering with the Newton director of forestry to make this happen. In the process, I’ve gotten to build amazing connections with kind and driven leaders across my city. I also joined the Green Newton Youth Group and created a subgroup within it, the 4C Tree team. Now my team of high school and college students and I have raised over $44,000 to plant at least 220 trees across my city of Newton, Massachusetts.
Elizabeth Sockwell ’21
Newton Center, Massachusetts

sunriseAs an aging retiree, I now reside in an apartment, which has a picture window facing east. I watch the dawn now with joy and marvel at the changing cloud patterns that make each dawn individual.

Richard Ferraro ’55
Dover, New Hampshire

For me, walks outside with my toddlers and connecting with my research students on Zoom brought me joy during these unusual times.
Emily Derbyshire ’02
Durham, North Carolina

Making a difference for the birds, other wildlife and the environment of Connecticut is what brings me joy. As just one example, last year we had a pair of nesting American oystercatchers at my office at Milford Point. One day in July, I noticed that one of the oystercatcher chicks had something wrapped around its head. The next day we organized staff and partners and mounted a rescue effort. The bird was released back to the wild after we gave it some identifying leg bands. The bands allowed us to track the bird until it fledged and later left for the winter grounds with its parents. This is just one example of some of the things that have brought me joy in my conservation career, but one of the more hands-on and tangible ones. Other key tangible moments include helping to protect the former Griswold Airport Property in Madison; the Preserve property in Essex, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook; Salt Meadow Park and the Guilford Sluice property, both in Guilford; and the Suffield Wildlife Management Area in Suffield, which now supports a healthy population of the state-endangered grasshopper sparrow.

Patrick Comins ’90
Stratford, Connecticut

Student and alumni accomplishments that come from the teaching or advising that I do, sometimes over the course of many years, bring me joy. Whether that’s a student or alum getting into medical school or a current student finding a course I recommended was a great fit, or whether it’s one of my nutrition students taking control of their own health, knowing that I played a positive role in their development and seeing their pride in their accomplishment—that brings me great joy!
Alison Draper
Director, Center for Interdisciplinary Science

What brings me joy? Dropping our daughter [Allison Rau ’23] at Trinity for freshman year exactly 30 years after my husband and I arrived as freshmen ourselves.
Dana Meachen Rau ’93
Burlington, Connecticut

When I try explaining something to one of my guitar students several different ways and one of them actually works. I see their facial expressions change from puzzlement to comprehension, then joy and relief, as they integrate it. That never gets old.

Andy Bassford ’76
Bronx, New York

This year I’m trying to focus on the small things that bring me joy:

  • the first sip of my iced coffee every morning
  • my children laughing together
  • opening a new book
  • feeling the sunshine on my face
  • the smell, sound, and feel of wading into the ocean
  • my new nephew’s smile
  • the voices of my family
  • the emails where a student tells me good news, like that they were offered an amazing internship or job or were admitted into grad school

Katharine Clair
International Student Adviser

Photography of birds and other wildlife, and the opportunity that gives me to be out in nature and in tune with it, brings me joy. It’s my job—I’m a professional wildlife photographer—and it’s also my great passion.

Melissa Groo ’84
Brooktondale, New York

Reading, talking with friends, FaceTiming my kids and grandchildren, spending time with my husband, being in the woods, my work, my research, and, most of all, an immense sense of overall gratitude. 

Manya Bouteneff ’78
Hartsdale, New York

I feel joyful when I move with intention, purpose, and mind-body-spirit alignment—while loving myself, my given and chosen family, and minoritized communities. 

Samantha Alcala ’11
New York, New York


“Hidden Joy”

When darkness began to spread last year,
Few would know what there was to fear.
Then the virus began to unfurl its deadly shroud.
Was there any joy hidden in that pandemic cloud?

Normal life quickly came to an abrupt end;

Alone in our homes without family and friends.
Old and new tasks were done as more time allowed,
Was there a hint of joy hidden in that pandemic cloud?

For those fortunate to evade COVID’s lethal toll,
Computers, email and Zoom played a vital role.
With masks in place, we soon ventured into the crowd,
Was there more joy hidden in that pandemic cloud?

With the new year came the anticipated lifesaving vaccine.
For many, this meant the end of the long quarantine.
The rhythm of life slowly came back once again;
The cloud parted leaving the hidden joy of family and friends. 

Jonathan L. Stolz, M.D. ’65
Williamsburg, Virginia

In a kind of longer-term philosophical sense, and as one who is very involved in meditation and mindfulness, particularly in the past two decades, I find that learning to live in the present is so much more than a cliché and really a statement of finding real peace in life. So often, especially in this day and age, we are all focused on where we’re going, what we need to do to get to the next step, and how we will deal with the inevitable anxieties and challenges of the future. While these are important, I’ve become far more aware that we can only do that by focusing on the present … whether that means enjoying a good meal with a friend at a favorite restaurant; walking on the beach listening to the sound of waves; playing with our children, grandchildren, or pets; taking a long bike ride or hike; or whatever. It is only the present that we can influence or on which we have an impact, and I believe that is the source of real joy.

Randy Lee ’66
Director, Trinity College Counseling and Wellness Center
Associate Professor of Psychology

What helps me get through trying times? Or, who helps me get through trying times? The Holy Spirit. In this picture, the rock symbolizes my hard heart before saying yes to Jesus. The rock has been split open by the power of God. The tree represents the tree of life, Jesus living in me by the power of the Holy Spirit. It gives me great joy to share the message of new life in Christ! God has removed my heart of stone and given me a new heart!
(Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Fred Vyn ’69
South Hamilton, Massachusetts

Top 10 List

  1. Playing a round of golf or watching a movie with Sue, my wife of 40 years, as well as conversations with our three adult children who have turned out not only to be good citizens but also close friends.
  2. Doing a photo shoot, developing the images in my computer, printing the images, and sharing the results with family, friends, or in an exhibit. What else in life provides joy four times over?
  3. A cycling trip with the other three of the Four Amigos, colleagues from my career at Lockheed Martin with whom I have cycled for 22 years.
  4. A Sunday afternoon at Washington Nationals Park with my three friends from our church, scoring the game, and watching the Nats win.
  5. Any time in nature, hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in winter, or camping. But most particularly time spent in the C&O Canal National Historical Park, which I have helped to steward through my work with the C&O Canal Trust.
  6. Reading a good book, preferably a history or a hard-boiled detective story.
  7. Listening to the improvisations of early Miles Davis, to the exquisite phrasing of Billie Holiday, to Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites and thinking “There is a God.”
  8. Viewing Northern Renaissance art—the Van Eyck brothers, Dürer, Bosch, Cranach, Holbein, Memling, Brueghel (Younger and Elder), among others.
  9. Hitting a pure shot in a round of golf and marveling that that one pure shot is enough to bring me back to play another round.
  10. Quiet time to reflect on where I have been and to think about where the next step in the adventure is going to take me.

Mike Mitchell ’73
Potomac, Maryland

Family, Fur Buddies, Friends, Football, and FutureSense
It is a combination of the 5 “F’s” that give me joy: 

Family, including Fur Buddies
I have been married for 37 years to Lynn, who is “Humama” to all of our dogs (we have had four and fostered many more) and a talented dog trainer working with breeders for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Lynn is shown with Ernie, our latest “career change” guide dog (now 13 years old). Also, very proud of my sister Judy, who retired from the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, where she served as a distinguished paramedic/firefighter for 28 years. Lynn and I have two great sons: Matt, 36, and Brett, 30, both of whom happen to work with me in my business, FutureSense. Brett is now married to Kara (in 2019). Both Matt and Brett were collegiate athletes (soccer). Brett specializes in organization development and compensation consulting and is a youth soccer coach with the Colorado Rapids program; Matt specializes in recruiting and HR and has a passionate interest in organic, sustainable, and regenerative agriculture and the cannabis industry.  

Due to the quarantine and lockdown, we have drawn closer to friends and neighbors than ever before. My oldest friend (shown from a picture of us at YMCA Camp Becket in 1970) contracted COVID in the early months and thankfully survived. We have joined with about 50 of our old camp friends in Zoom calls 25 times in the past year. That connection has meant a great deal in not only acknowledging the strength of our past friendships but also in reuniting us for the future. Here is a picture of a crew of us after completing a 100-mile bike ride across Massachusetts to honor a former friend who had passed away and raise money for camperships. 

Soccer (aka Football)
I have been a high school and youth soccer referee for the past 25-plus years. I am pictured (pre-COVID) with several of my referee colleagues in our special breast cancer awareness pink referee shirts, which we try to wear in the month of October each year. It gives me great joy to be able to run with 18-year-olds, keeping up with the pace of the game! In addition, I serve on the National Board of Directors for Street Soccer USA, whose purpose it is to lift people out of poverty. 

Finally, 26 years ago I founded a company, FutureSense, that seeks to improve organization effectiveness and efficiency through people strategy consulting. It has given me great joy to see the company grow (the photo shows the last pre-pandemic time we were all together in November 2019). We are now up to 25 employees and still expanding. As I like to say, the average age of the firm is 40, and I’m not! Onward and upward to the future! 

Jim Finkelstein ’74
San Rafael, California