When German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller wrote the poem “Ode to Joy” (originally entitled “Ode to Freedom”) in 1785, he was celebrating the unity of mankind. In 1824, Ludwig van Beethoven tweaked the poem and included it in the fourth movement of his Ninth Symphony. The rest, of course, is history.


But what gives people joy these days? Is it watching your children at play? Reading a great book? Or, like Schiller, recognizing the ties that bond us all? Here are a few folks’ ideas.

“My middle name is Joy, so this is easy. What gives me joy? Watching my dog, Sadie, plow her way through a spoonful of peanut butter because she gets so excited every time. Sitting next to my partner A in bed reading magazines – sometimes being close to people you love and not actually talking is more significant than having a conversation. And hiking in the woods where there's no cell-phone reception: despite having a very digital job, I really like to unplug and unwind on the weekends, so that I can be in the moment and focus on the present.” – Melody Kramer, NPR digital services

“My daughter gives me joy. Her name is Willa, she's five years old and she loves princesses and pirates and playing the cello. She's been a Suzuki cello student for two years and whenever she plays for me, whether at a recital or at home practicing, I get goose bumps. And whenever I take her to see a symphony orchestra, I love watching her get goose bumps.” – Sally Kohn, CNN commentator

“Some of my most joyous moments have been spent out to dinner with friends. Not your everyday, harried rush job, but those occasions you spend time talking with the bartender and chef, when everything that passes your lips is perfect and you go ahead and order that second or third bottle of wine. When the conversation is interesting and you take time to truly listen and respond. It's like the world outside that four-top has ceased to exist. Time and worries slip away. My joyful moments are spent in restaurants.” – Anna Tauzin, manager, digital innovation, National Restaurant Association

“For me, joy comes from getting out there and trying new things on my own; things that a younger Hilary might have said were too daunting, too difficult or simply too much for me to handle. It comes from harnessing the courage and the self-belief to try new things, scale new walls, and learning to find the genuine joy in each step of the journey.” – Hilary Phelps, founder and creative director, geniunejoy.com

“The first sip of a cool, crisp rosé on a perfect spring day. It's the wine version of signaling the end of winter and a spring and summer full of sunset dinners with friends on my roof and long, lazy afternoons in the sun! Also, coming back home to Arizona and greeting our family dogs at the door. The squeals of delight and wagging tales give away their utter excitement and happiness to see me again. And I couldn't be happier to see them!” – Alejandra Owens, senior advisor, AARP Communications Team

What gives you joy?

The BSO performs Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony June 5-8. Info at BSOmusic.org.