Island of Joy

I am a self-proclaimed geek/nerd, but I’m not really a gamer. I love board games, but most computer and video games just stress me out. So when I first started seeing people talk about Animal Crossing, I had no interest in playing it. Then, my kids started playing it. And it looked like fun. I wanted to run around an island and pick fruit. I wanted to make friends with animals who would then move onto my island. I wanted to dress my avatar in cute outfits and customize furniture.

The lure of Animal Crossing for me (and I believe for many others) is that there is not end. There is no “point.” There are no enemies to defeat, no boss levels to overcome. You just get to create an island home and invite animals to live there with you. You can play with others as well by inviting them to your island. I enjoy visiting my kids’ islands and inviting them to mine. I like to show them my latest home decorating attempts or introduce them to my animal “Villagers.”

I also enjoy seeing people post pictures from their own islands online. The ways you can decorate and redesign are practically endless. You can dig up trees, move rivers, build bridges, break rocks. Your island can be simple or very fancy. I love seeing the creativity at work on different islands!

One of my friends recently shared that he had stopped playing Animal Crossing lately. He said that he had seen so many fancy islands online and visited friends’ islands that were “nicer” than his and that it upset him. He thought his own island paled in comparison. He had once found a great deal of joy playing this game, but he could no longer find joy in it because his island wasn’t like others’ islands.

I told him that my island is a mess. I have flowers growing everywhere. They aren’t in gardens or planted in a way to encourage the best cross-pollination. I just let them grow wild. I love running my avatar through the flowers and kicking up petals and bugs. It makes me laugh. And my home on the island is full of all kinds of treasures—a pipe organ, an hourglass, a diner counter, a giant teddy bear. I put things that make me happy in the rooms. I don’t worry too much with theme or what makes logical sense. It’s fun! I want to be surrounded by what makes me smile in this virtual world.

As I’ve played this week, I’ve thought quite a bit about this conversation and others like it. Comparing ourselves to others is not a new phenomenon, but it seems especially rampant as we navigate life during a pandemic. Some people are baking, others are cleaning, some are reading all the books, some are watching lots of TV. I hope that whatever it is that brings you JOY right now does not get spoiled by comparing it to what is working for others.

President Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And we are reminded by Paul that all parts of the body are important in 1 Corinthians 12. He writes, “But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Corinthians 12: 24-26)

My hope for all of us is that we enjoy what we enjoy and also that we rejoice with others. Let’s spend this time lifting one another up and celebrating each other’s accomplishments—from well-baked bread to artistic masterpieces to really awesome Animal Crossing islands.

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