Finding joy

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Joy can seem as hard to come by nowadays as hand sanitizer, but at least there’s good news when it comes to joy. You don’t have to wait for a restock at Target. The supply is limitless if you know where to look.

If you’re lucky enough to be sheltering in place with someone you care about, you can begin your quest with a great big hug. Studies show that an embrace of 20 seconds or more releases a flood of hormones that elevate your mood and promote relaxation and happiness.

There have been hugs aplenty at our house since my wife joined me in working from home. We tank up with a long embrace before we head off to our respective computers in the morning and replenish our reserves as our paths cross in the course of the day.

They say laughter is the best medicine. I get my first daily dose at around 9:35 a.m. weekdays on WGN radio. That’s when on-air personality John Williams rattles off a series of dopey “speed jokes” that always manage to lift my spirits. My aunt turned me on to the segment, and lately I’ve been doubling down by calling her afterward to share my favorites with her.

My family typically converges on my sister’s house for Easter, where we laugh too loudly, eat too much and lie around like walruses on the ice flow after dinner watching whatever’s on TV. The coronavirus put the kibosh on a face-to-face celebration this year, but modern technology served up a joyous alternative.

Later that month, Sher and I sat down to dinner with my siblings and their spouses via the audiovisual app Zoom. There we were, stacked in boxes on each other’s computer screens like the intro to “The Brady Bunch,” laughing up a storm while sharing a meal from the comfort and safety of our own dining rooms.

They also say the gift is in the giving. The pandemic has brought new meaning to that old turn of phrase. Sher and I didn’t wait for our stimulus money to arrive to start paying it forward. We made a series of donations to favorite service providers and theater companies that have been hit hard by the lockdown, then we posted about it on their Facebook pages to encourage others to do the same. Spending money never felt so good.

And acts of generosity don’t have to be monetary to yield huge dividends. Just ask Ron Giordano of H.S. Crocker, who helped create single-use hand sanitizers that were given away to first responders, or the Fricano family of Itasca, who have been churning out feel-good lawn signs to beat the band. (See page 53.) “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people,” Peter Fricano Jr. shares. “They’re all saying how wonderful it is to walk through town and see all these signs. It’s just amazing!”

If you’re looking for an online pick-me-up, there’s plenty of joy with an Italian flair to be found on YouTube. You can take a virtual tour of Vesuvius and Pompeii, immerse yourself in Florence’s Easter traditions, tap into concerts as they stream from opera houses across the country, join a Michelin-star chef as he prepares gourmet meals at home with whatever’s in fridge, and revel in a pair of 12-year-old Sicilian violinists as they unleash an absolutely adorable version of Coldplay’s “When I Ruled the World” from their living room.

To check out the above and much more, visit and click on “Good Vibes from Italy.” For our latest finds, follow us on Facebook. If you have a gem of your own to share, send a link to

There are so many ways to cultivate joy. You can take a daily walk, offering a smile and a wave to passersby; or plant a windowsill herb garden, sharing the bounty with your neighbors; or call a friend or relative who’s living alone for a quick chat.

Whatever you do, don’t wait for joy to come to you.

The above appears in the June 2020 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.



About Paul Basile

Paul Basile has been the editor of Fra Noi for a quarter of a century. Over that period, he and his dedicated family of staff members and correspondents have transformed a quaint little community newspaper into a gorgeous glossy magazine that is read and admired across the nation. They also maintain a cluster of national and local websites and are helping other major metropolitan areas launch their own versions of Fra Noi.

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