Contemplations about Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Meaningful Existence…

Redefining Happy


The greatest privilege of being a flight attendant is crossing paths with passengers who completely transform your day life…


Born three months early and diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Jon’s future appeared hopeless. The doctors told his parents that his brain’s frontal lobe deformation was such that he’d likely never be more than a vegetable.

They were wrong.

Jon rolled down the jetway in a motorized wheelchair, which allowed him to stand upright, looking like Robert Downey Jr. in the Iron Man movie. His megawatt smile and larger-than-life personality swiftly amplified my superhero impression. When I asked where he was headed, he proudly informed me that he’d been selected as one of only seventy college students nationwide to participate in a five-day leadership conference. He’d be giving several motivational speeches.

“I love talking. Put a tree in front of me, and I’ll talk to it.” He laughed. “My plan, once I get my master’s, is to be a motivational speaker. I’ve already produced a few short films, and I’m writing a book.”

“What’s it about?” I asked, thinking I had a fairly good idea.

“It’s about how the definition of happy is completely inaccurate,” he said, upending my presumption. “Happiness isn’t a single emotion. It’s the ability to appreciate all emotional states, learning and growing from both positive and negative experiences. People buy all these self-help books on how to be happy when they really just need to constructively connect with the world around them. Happiness isn’t an adjective — it’s a verb.”

“Impressive wisdom coming from a college kid.” I winked.

“Well, I wasn’t always so smart.” He fidgeted with his cell phone. “In high school I got a little depressed, focusing on all the stuff I couldn’t do. Fortunately, my mom is a very smart lady. She let me wallow in self-pity exactly three days before dragging me out to visit a kid born with my same condition. There I was, staring into the eyes of a boy roughly my age, except he can’t move, can’t speak, can’t feed himself — nothing. He wasn’t as lucky as me!”

I nodded, fingernails sinking into my palms to keep the tears at bay.

“Anyway, like I was saying,” he continued, “happiness boils down to how you choose to interact with the world. A perfect example occurred just this morning coming through security. When the TSA spoke to my travel assistant, their tone was totally normal. But when they turned to me, their voices slowed and shot up several decibels, as if they were speaking to a kindergartener. Was I going to let that ruin my day? No way, Jose! I started joking around with them until they were clutching their bellies. By the time they finished scanning all my metal parts, I’m pretty sure they saw me as someone not all that different from themselves.”

He shrugged. “And that’s my secret to happiness. When others treat me with indifference or disrespect, I surprise them with a story, a joke — whatever I think is going to dispel the negative cloud the quickest. Most people are so accustomed to confrontation, they don’t even know how to process this. Then, something shifts, and their entire disposition changes. That’s super cool to watch.” His smile illuminated the cabin.

“You’d make a great flight attendant.”

His eyes lit up. “I’d even sing!”

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26 thoughts on “Redefining Happy

  1. LL is BACKKKKK! What a truly inspired and inspiring nugget of gold, my friend, told with your trademark eloquence and heart. Were you talking to me? As this is the perfect insight I needed to hear right now, and at many other moments. A wonderful tribute, and gift to us all. Love and hugs

    • Thank you, My Cherished Friend! ♥ It’s truly amazing how a conversation with someone can forever change your life. And this is why I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up my flying gig…

      I have the privilege of crossing paths with and observing such a diverse group of people, many facing challenges with awe-inspiring determination that I would never otherwise know. My heart soaks up their stories and tenacity like a sponge and serves as a fabulous reminder to count my blessings — and never complain about anything ever again!! 🙂

      Thank you for the gift of YOU! xo

  2. Wonderful story beautifully told. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Inspiring and touching story Shauna. And I love Jon’s perspective on happiness. Hopefully, I’ll remember next time I’m feeling sad or challenged. Welcome back!

  4. Beautiful posting. Had me trying not to cry as I sit in the coffee shop reading this.

  5. Reblogged this on TINY LESSONS BLOG and commented:
    What a wonderful, touching story and life lesson! This young man’s redefinition of happiness is spot on. Looking forward to reading his book too. I’ve tried to internalize the saying that 10% of my life is what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. It’s not easy…but has so much potential. Great to have you back!!

    • I’m so honored by your reblog, Tiny!!! Jon definitely left me with much to ponder. I want to bottle and sell his positive outlook on life. Truly a blessed soul who will inspire many in his future. It’s great to be back!! Thank you. ♥

  6. Words of wisdom. Must remember that how you respond to and interact with people determines the experience.

  7. What an inspiring story… Thanks for the share…

  8. It’s great to read a new post from you. Welcome back! What an inspiring story, so very well told.

  9. Sandy on said:

    What a wonderful young man and story so beautifully written.

  10. Pingback: How do you choose your words while blogging? | Bhartithewriter

  11. Brilliant and uplifting and inspiring!

  12. Hi LuggageLady. It is lonely if world do not communicate! Thank you for liking my poem ‘ The Fire Station!’ The Foureyed

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