'The Duty of Delight'

by Dorothy Day

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The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, ed. Robert Ellsberg (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2008; abridged paperback: New York: Doubleday, 2011).

February 12, 1959
It is hard to convince anyone, priest or people, that Charity must forgive seventy times seven, and that we must not judge. The bitterness with which people regard the poor and down-and-out. Drink, profligate living, laziness, everything is suspected. They help them once, the man who comes to the door, but they come back! They want more help. “Where will it end? Can I accomplish anything? Aren’t there poorer people whom I should be helping?” These are the questions they ask themselves which paralyzes all charity, chills it, stops all good work. If we start in by admitting that what we can do is very small -- a drop in the bucket -- and try to do that very well, it is a beginning and really a great deal.

Here I am, 61 years old, and I can remember three incidents of people with very sweet expressions, happy smiles, welcoming looks, among all my casual encounters, who quite warmed my heart for the rest of the day. People who are in our position, where many calls are made on them, are apt to get a guarded expression, a suspicious look, or even an angry look when they feel frustrated at not being able to help as they wish. Oh! to start out each day and greet each encounter with open arms -- a message from our dear Lord, a friend of His, someone He sent, His guest, not ours. The Sacrament of the Present Moment, Father McSorley calls it.

May 8, 1960
Spent the day utterly exhausted at the beach and at seven Beth picked me up to go to the farm where Fr. Becker was hearing confessions. Too tired to think of anything but my impatience, resentments, and speaking ill of my neighbor, repeating his faults. Our young parish priest on hearing such a confession advised me to read again the encyclical on the Mystical Body, remembering that we are all members one of another and what we criticize in another is our own fault.

June 7
I felt impelled to write to Karl about my troubles and suddenly thought -- they have enough troubles. Why add to their burden.

The other day when writing my article and appeal I threw away my article telling of all our troubles and thought “this is not what our readers want -- to be tortured with tales of broken families, men beating their wives and children, etc.”

I will write happily of June and its beauties. Of course if you do this you get a double share of complaints from all around you who try to make you see how bad everything is. Still you cannot help but help others by your own repose and joy if you try to maintain it.

July 30
Up at 6. Mass 7. Had breakfast with Ammon and then in downpour drove upstate. Roads flooded with tropical storm Brenda. Slow leak in tire. Got to Otis by one and lunched and slept. Franklin and Della had office company. Bed early and good rest. I must keep quieter about rats, drug addicts, poverty, slums, etc, when out in company. People do not want to hear about these things.

Feb. 24, 1961
Today I thought of a title for my book, “The Duty of Delight,” as a sequel to “The Long Loneliness.” I was thinking, how as one gets older, we are tempted to sadness, knowing life as it is here on earth, the suffering, the Cross. And how we must overcome it daily, growing in love, and the joy which goes with loving.

[These diary entries come from The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg (Marquette University Press). The selections were made by Robert Ellsberg. The paperback edition will be available in October.]

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