Choose to be Happy

Thinking about the New Year and the potential for a truly “Happy” New Year leads me to think about my grandfather.  Raised in rural Mississippi, Grandpa was born on the eleventh day of 1911; the eleventh child of twelve in a dirt poor family.

I am not a numerologist but all those 11 must have brought him something good but to the casual observer Grandpa never had much.  He knew hard work for little reward. He never went beyond the fourth grade because his father said Grandpa didn’t know his books well enough to warrant paying for the next year’s books.  So, Grandpa spent two extra years doing fourth grade work over and over again.  When he found a job, he quit school and began a long career of working at menial jobs for minimum pay due to his lack of education.  He knew hard work. Grandpa always told me the worst job in the world was picking cotton where he only lasted a couple days.  He just couldn’t make the quota each day and considered himself lucky when fired.

At the height of the Great Depression, Grandpa met Grandma, the love of his life.  They married and began a family.  Now in rural Mississippi in early 1930 making a wage decent enough to support a wife and two little girls was not to be found.  Through friends Grandpa heard that the Illinois Central Railroad was hiring in Chicago.  Hopping the next train for Chicago, he got a job as a freight handler, and sent most of his paycheck home to Grandma and the girls until they were able to join him in the Windy City.  For those that do not know; a freight handler on the railroad loaded and unloaded boxcars by hand, no machines, only dollies to ease the weight.

Grandpa was a hard worker.  He often talked about 10 – 12 hour shifts in sub-zero temperatures in the winter as well as over 100F heat in the summer without any way to get out of the cold or heat.  No building, just an open freight yard.  I tell you this to let you know just how difficult life was for my Grandfather.

This grueling life was no match for Grandpa’s positive outlook.  He always said that each day was a gift.  Each morning that he woke up on the right side of the grass was a gift.  No, he was not upset with the challenging life he was given.  He regularly said each day we wake up, we make a choice.  We can choose to be angry or upset with life OR we can choose to be happy and see the positive.  Then Grandpa always said, “I choose to be happy, it’s so much easier to be happy.”  He would go on to explain how much work it took to stay angry or upset.  He tried to live each day in a perpetual state of thankfulness for his blessings. Now you may think what could this man find to be happy about?  Everything!  He was grateful for his eyesight, his health, his meager wages, but most of all Grandpa was grateful for his family

So as we begin a New Year, I will commit once again to being happy; committed to seeing the best that life has to offer, committed to acknowledging the little miracles I am blessed with daily, and committed to bravely going forward in a state of continual thankfulness for all the happy thing yet to come.

Happy New Year!




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