“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Joy is all around me. It even compels me to dance while shopping in the frozen food section.

Sadly, I almost lost my joy after Daddy passed away. Our move to Raleigh, NC from Plainfield, NJ a few years prior had taken me out of my comfort zone, and I’d relied on nightly conversations with him to anchor me. We’d laugh, sing songs, and make sense of everything happening in my pre-teen world. When he passed, it felt like joy went with him.

Thankfully, my Raleigh village protected my joy. Grandpa picked me up from school every day, always excited to hear what I learned and boast about my achievements. Mommy encouraged me to write poetry and plan the first of many mother-daughter vacations. First Baptist Church members called on me to share my talents for spoken word. By compelling me to give from the best parts of myself, they showed me how to create space for joy to thrive.

Now, I live each day speaking joy into existence, dancing even when everybody is watching, and supporting organizations that empower others to do the same. I will protect joy in others just as my village did for me.

— Shani Carter