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Pastor Glenn McDonald: A Joyful Heart

Like the contractors and foremen who are hoping to hire workers, Jesus Morales occasionally drops by one of the southern California parking lots or street corners where unemployed laborers gather early every morning, hoping to be chosen for a day’s work.


But the 27-year-old doesn’t take any workers to a construction site or harvest field.


After inviting three Spanish-speaking migrants to join him in his SUV, Morales tells them, “We’re going to Disneyland.”


They’ve never heard that one before. “We’ll pay you for the day,” Morales assures them. “But what are we going to do there?” one asks, puzzled. “Enjoy the park,” he replies. “That’s all.”


As Catherine E. Shoichet recently reported on CNN’s webpage, Jesus Morales is proof that not everyone trying to earn a living by posting videos on TikTok is attempting to invent new dance moves. Morales, who’s known in the world of social media as Juixxe – a nod to his childhood nickname “Juice” – has gathered upwards of 5 million followers and more than 160 million likes.


What’s the big attraction?


Morales’ fans can’t get enough of his homemade videos documenting acts of extraordinary kindness to people who rarely get to enjoy happy surprises. Since last year, when he first took a handful of day laborers to Disneyland, Jesus has taken about 50 workers to the Anaheim theme park. He has also arranged for special trips to concerts and ballgames, given street vendors crazy tips (as much as $1,000) and even bought one impoverished entrepreneur his own food truck.


Juixxe’s TikTok devotees have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it all happen.


He happily acknowledges, “That’s what’s most surprising, how powerful the internet is, and how awesome it can be when you utilize it for good.”


Why are people so deeply touched by this makeshift street ministry of happiness?


Maybe it’s the testimonies. “I don’t remember the last time I’ve had a day for myself,” says a Latina housekeeper. An older man wearing Mickey Mouse ears declares, “I’ve never had an experience like this, even as a kid. I feel very happy.” In one of the videos a worker tells Morales that he actually helped build part of Disneyland, but he had never had the chance to visit as a guest.


Morales notes that one thing always grabs his heart during these special trips: the laughter.


Note the expressions of joy and gratitude in the images that accompany this reflection. Jesus, by the way, is in the picture on the left. He’s the young man sitting in the second row of the roller coaster on the right. “That’s the thing that always gets me,” he says, “seeing or hearing them laughing.”


Natalia Molina, distinguished professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California, suggests there’s another reason so many viewers are touched.


“Especially if you come from an immigrant background, if you are Latino or an immigrant, it’s validating,” she says. “[Jesus] puts a spotlight on [these workers] and treats them with respect, and you’re reminded of something that we shouldn’t need to be reminded of — that these are human beings who live whole lives.”


Molina adds that contemporary culture usually depicts immigrants “as criminals or housekeepers, as low-wage service workers who have no voice. They’re just these flat stereotypes.”


In Hollywood, Latino actors are relegated to just 4% of the spoken lines. “These videos bring them out as human beings, living three-dimensional lives, that just experience so much joy.”


The online responses to Juixxe’s generosity are overwhelmingly positive. “As someone with a dad who hasn’t had a day off since he got to the US, thank you truly,” writes one viewer. Another adds, “You heal a lot of people’s inner child. Most immigrants spend most of their life working and saving and not being able to go out to places like this. Thank you for all you do.”


An adult ticket for one day in Disneyland costs between $104 and $196. Morales not only springs for the tickets, but pays each man $500 for their time.


But there is no price tag on joy.


“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” So says Proverbs 17:22.


Laughter that springs from a grateful heart is not only a healing force. It draws us nearer to those around us, and inevitably brings us face to face with the possibility of a closer walk with God.


As the Bible’s central character assures us, “These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).


His name, by the way, also happens to be Jesus.

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