This morning, as I walked home from exercising, I passed a park, full of people, a military band and police officers. It was time for the changing of the flag.

In this particular park at one of the highest points in the city, once a month the military police take down the enormous flag that has grown ratty by wind and rain and replace it with a new one. It’s always an event, but especially so today, which must be something like Flag Day.

There was even an air show, with what looked (and sounded) like WW2 era airplanes. The kids in the crowd were transfixed. Most of the kids hanging out in the park during that time of day are either semi-homeless or unschooled. So this must have seemed like a once in a lifetime thing to them.

My first thoughts, though, were of disgust. I thought, “how in the world can the Brazilian governement justify this expense? These poor children are starving, unschooled, have no hope of getting out of the situations they are in. Why not help them instead of entertaining them? My second thought was almost equal in disdain: We’re in the city, for goodness sakes. I can’t believe they are doing this over all these buildings. What if there is an accident?

But I stood there long enough to see the children’s faces transformed by what they were seeing and experiencing. Looking at them, it all seemed worth it. Yes, I wished the airplanes would be careful. Yes, I wished the government would do more to give these children a hand up. But what they were experiencing in that moment was pure joy. And it brought tears to my eyes.

I don’t often talk about my faith here in my blog. It’s always a thread through the center of my life but most of what I share here is, well…mundane and unimportant. But as I was thinking about what I had just seen, it dawned on me that the situation was a true example of how I view my faith. I don’t have answers to all the questions in the world, the suffering, the violence, the despair. I’ve had friends ask, “If there is truly a God, how can he justify not doing something about all the suffering, the famine, the despair? How can He allow evil to exist?”

I can provide all kinds of answers about God’s character and how he chooses to work. I can quote verses from the Bible about who He is and how He works. But in the end it all boils down to this: I know the pure joy of experiencing Him. I was once emotionally and spiritually starving and homeless. My heart has been transformed by a gift. Just like those homeless children, my daily situation may not look that much different but I know a hope that I didn’t know before.

Today, I feel the same thing I saw on the faces of those children in the park.

Pure joy.

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