After high school, 20-year-old Jeremy McInnis served in the U.S. Army National Guard.
His unit was deployed to Israel during a period of heavy Palestinian conflict, and when a bomb blew up and collapsed a building, Jeremy ran in to pull out victims trapped inside.
About six hours in, they discovered a room with a partially collapsed roof. In it was a barely conscious eleven-year-old boy just visible underneath his mother and father.
His parents had obviously covered him with their own bodies as the building collapsed, which saved his life. But it cost them their own.
After medical treatment, the boy was taken to an orphanage only a few blocks away.
Each day for the next four or five days, Jeremy saw him playing in the yard with the other children.
Jeremy recalls, “He was smiling, and laughing, and…happy. I thought ‘How on earth can that be?’ This kid just lost everything!”
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At his next opportunity, Jeremy stopped to talk to the boy and find out how he could be so happy and smiling all the time after what happened.
In impressive but broken English, and in a heavy Israeli accent, the boy responded, “Because the sky is blue.”
That didn’t make sense to Jeremy, and it must have showed, because the boy invited Jeremy to sit down and then continued, “It’s something my father taught me repeatedly for as long as I can remember. ‘Because the sky is blue’ can be a reason for anyone to do anything, any time.”
It’s like saying ‘because it’s Tuesday,’ or ‘because I’m left-handed,’ or even ‘just because.’ In other words, ‘I don’t really have a reason. Nor do I need one. It’s just how I choose to be.’
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That eleven-year-old boy had just lost his mother and father and every worldly possession they owned. And yet he was happy and smiling simply because that’s the way he chose to be. That’s the secret Jeremy learned.
Happiness isn’t something that happens to you. It’s a decision you make. It may be the most important legacy that boy carries with him from his father. And now Jeremy carries it. If you met Jeremy today and asked why he’s happy, he’ll be glad to tell you. It’s because the sky is blue.
Paul Smith is a bestselling author who’s newest book, Parenting with a Story, documents 101 inspiring lessons like this one to help you (and your kids) build the kind of character anyone would be proud of. He’s a keynote speaker and trainer on leadership and storytelling based on his bestselling book Lead with a Story. You can follow Paul on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Photo by natfu