Finding joy during difficult times

It’s time to return to joy.

But hold on just one minute. Have you truly experienced joy in the first place in order to book a return trip?

This summer has left us with canceled vacations and families sheltered together, without a library, restaurant, theater, gym or spa in which to escape, connect and release.

Some of us have been further isolated, perhaps not even engaging consistently with another human. Instead, we are in prolific dialogue with our pets.

The good ol’ Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” I have a feeling that many of us would not necessarily define our summers as that of the stuff of joy – at least not the joy we had come to know in our lives before being homebound.

Those families altogether in one place have had to navigate their existence on stage for one another, oftentimes without an easy escape or no retreat at all. As an introvert by nature, I have learned to locate an “on switch” for genuine joy with public speaking and facilitating groups. Yet I deeply need space and time to reset and replenish to make sense of the world.

I have a home and meaningful work that provide me this space. By my account, I am beyond riches at this time. I know this because I have the luxury to sit and reflect on the joy I have.

Helping the LGBTQI+ community

At Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa County, the place in which I am able to be a part of meaningful work, we have an LGBTQI+ Homeless Transitional Youth Program. This program, alongside our Supply Train food pantry home delivery service, provides direct support to our LGBTQI+ community members who are seeking and managing basic needs such as housing, food access and safety. See

The number of homeless youth and young adults is staggering and has steadily increased since our nation has been sheltered in place in mid-March. Across all cultures and communities, homophobia and transphobia have forced young people to leave home after coming out as LGBTQI+ to their families.

In the Voices of Youth Count Initiative’s 2017 study from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Black youth had an 83 percent higher risk for homelessness and LGBT youth had a 120 percent higher risk for homelessness. And these statistics reflect our world before March 2020. See

At mid-summer, Rainbow’s homeless youth program reflected 78 percent Black youth who identify as LGBTQI+, while our other program services, i.e. virtual support groups, clinical services and food pantry program, reflect less than 5 percent Black folx.

A time to share

Everybody shares a part of themselves to create abundance for all. Now is the time to consider how and what you can share. What is yours to do? Let’s investigate ways in which we are able to use our power to empower by investing our privilege. It starts with an honest conversation with ourselves.

There are several Contra Costa County community groups, partners and organizations that directly link services and opportunities to our most vulnerable community members, those that hold multiple marginalized intersectional identities:

Share your joy. Go big and stay home.

Kiku Johnson is Rainbow Community Center’s executive director. As a man of color and trans experience, Kiku has invested his life engaging and elevating youth and adult voices of marginalized intersectional identities. Send ­questions and comments to