Image for On Demanding Joy

Last Tuesday, I woke in a strange (but very comfortable) hotel room feeling like I had been run over by a train. I hadn’t gotten much sleep since the Thursday before, but I had a huge smile on my face.

david beahm design had helped to conceive, design, and produce the 25th Anniversary party for the Peninsula New York Hotel. It had to be an event unlike any other because all of their owners, board members, and V.I.P. guests from all over the world were attending. Raising the bar was the fact that the previous anniversary parties in Hong Kong and Chicago had both been huge successes. I knew that I had to not only make sure that guests were wonderfully entertained and well-fed, but they had to take away a visual memory of the evening as well.

Many of the Peninsula properties have stunning, grand sweeping lobbies that instantly make an impression. In New York, the hotel is housed in a historical building with a splendidly beautiful lobby, but as hotels go, it’s small. I immediately knew it needed a live floral element that spoke volumes about the Peninsula brand and had a celebratory feeling, all the while not taking up too much visual volume because we expected to move 800+ people through the lobby AND have their Chairman speak from the balcony. Thus, sight lines were critical; a standard grand urn with branches and flowers just wasn’t going to cut it.

To make the lobby sing, I decided to create “ribbons” of brightly colored flowers soaring high into the room, thereby taking advantage of the twenty-five foot tall ceiling. As with most big projects involving live botanicals, it was a feat much easier said than done.

I spent months obsessing about how to effectively make the ribbons happen. The list of challenges for this singular element seemed overwhelming. We knew that the ribbons could not be installed until 10:00 PM the night before the event and had to fairly complete by 6:00 AM on the morning of the party. The flowers had to stay alive until well past midnight. Estimating blooms per square inch (there were approximately 25,000) with most having to have a water source (plastic water-filled tubes), I knew the ribbon structure had to be extraordinarily strong because that would be a LOT of weight in the air. However, it had to look like the flowers were flying up toward the ceiling as though they weighed no more than a feather. And I haven’t even touched on the subject of safety! With the help of a professional metal worker and lots of sit-downs with my amazing team, the night had come to install my “grand” design. I was a wreck because when you’re doing something for the first time, you just don’t know how it’s going to turn out until you try. Ready, set, go, and hold on for the ride!

Why am I telling you all this? It’s because, despite sleepless nights and worrying, through planning and persistence, our team produced the ribbons beautifully. They were the “wow” that I needed to signify that the night was special and that our client was committed to their guests to make it so. Once all was said and done, it ended up costing me much more than I had ever anticipated and caused a lot of agita – but above all – do you know what it caused? Joy. Pure, unmitigated joy.

Not only were the guests thrilled with the beautiful outcome, we helped the management communicate their joy of being allowed to entertain their guests. My crew was so proud and joyous when it was done that they had accomplished a soaring floral victory; well over 18′ once complete. But what was important for me is that I was able to generate and spread a moment of joy. Creating joy and sharing it with others is one of the most amazing tools we have as humans (and why I started my business in the first place).

In the early 90’s when I was a high school band and choir teacher in Luray Virginia, I had the great fortune of being amidst a wonderful coterie of people. I was blessed with amazing, hard-working students, supportive parents and administrators. We ended up performing a lot around the area and sometimes around the state because we brought something to the table that many groups didn’t have. Yup. We had joy.

I’m not saying that we could have competed with professional musicians. Admittedly, there were times that the music wasn’t exactly pretty. But what we had was commitment to bring forth joy by letting the world see a little bit of our souls through performance. Joyful moments were created because we demanded the most from ourselves and just went for it. This resulted in a whole community rallying around the students and the students rallying around their community – everyone experiencing the giving and receiving of joy.

In these terribly frustrating times, it’s really hard to find joy. Just when you think the news can’t get worse, the reporter “joyously” reports something even more disheartening. But just think of all the things we have to be joyous about. Do you, at least, have some change in your pocket? Over three BILLION people live on less than $2.50 a day. Can you walk over to the wall and flip a switch to turn on a light? You have electricity! Amazing! Can you go to the faucet and have a glass of clean water? So many people don’t have that luxury. How lucky you are. In fact, if you are reading this on a computer right now, chances are you have electricity, a roof over your head, and even possibly heat or air conditioning. Most of the world either, literally, can’t read this or don’t have the opportunity. Just, for a moment, consider all of the joyous miracles that surround us every day.

This doesn’t have to be complicated. My friend Justin buys plain suit jackets. He then sets out to bump up his joy factor by being ever-so slightly different. He takes off one of the buttons on the sleeve and replaces it with a red button – just to shake things up a bit. You know what? That one, simple, really inexpensive act, brings him immense joy. He happily flashes a huge smile when he shows off his handiwork.

So while we’re waiting for our politicians to get their act together – let’s focus on starting a grass roots movement of joy right in our own backyards. Some people call it gratitude, some people call it a smile, but whatever you call it – I call it contagious. Demand joy be present in your life and then watch it spread.

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