Joy Wins

Defining The New Year In a Word

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

A war of words. The 2020 annual staff holiday party stunned. As tradition has unfolded, each year our staff meet to celebrate the season, as well as the year behind and before us. Each staff selects a word for the coming year. Last year, I was so excited to announce my word and then my co-worker announced hers. Happiness and joy. Said co-worker pronounced joy is better than happiness and we all sat pondering the difference. There you have it – the entirety of 2021 has been about exploring the difference between the two.

This tradition has become a beloved one for our staff, reflecting throughout the year and then excitedly anticipating the announcement of the new word as the holiday party approaches. True to the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, intention is certainly a cornerstone of goal setting and its subsequent success.

Of course, 2020 had been an epic re-working of all we have known. How could it not have been? If we let it, insights and wisdom from that year could percolate to the top and show us something new. It was during this time that the Bluebird of Happiness, with a long history in various cultures, spiked my curiosity. A symbol of all things good, there is an actual day for this –September 24, 2022. Last year, I gifted the staff with a bluebird ornament as a reminder to focus on the good. As a person of faith, I was encouraged that, “the blue bird reminds us not to lose hope in the face of an adversary and not to let go of the joy even in the darkest times”.

As I saw my co-worker speak of joy and its anchoring, I began to wonder. Let it be known we have been sharing happiness and joy quotes all year and that alone has brought me both. Perspective is everything.  At the core is gratitude, to see through the layers to the purest of all that is good. And then deciding to grab hold of it in that moment. Looking for the best in others, past the worst in others and truly listening for joy. Even in the faintest of whispers, all around us we find joy. And happiness follows.

As we experience the holiday season of 2021, may we be reminded that the things are not what bring the best kind of JOY – being in community with others and gifting ourselves to every person we encounter – that multiplies JOY. Where are you in the JOY journey? What do you want for 2022? My guess is the people around you have something to do with it. We are not meant to do this life alone – while we are in the most connected time of our history, we are yet also the most isolated.

Doing life with the folks I work with is an example of community and I could not be more grateful for the joy, happiness and laughter from living days with intention and presence amongst the UWCC staff, board and partners.

Are you wondering about our words for 2022? Here we go --- acceptance, breathe, give, emphatic, new beginnings, offering, resolute, rise, trust.

How about you? What’s your word? Perhaps it’s JOY which “speaks of a life lived for others”, revealed through a smile or a kindness offered - and not requested. The greatest sign of JOY is the peace that comes with it. I have officially been won over by JOY.

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at