Do What Makes You Oh So Happy

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One of the toughest guys I have ever met is a former Marine named Adam. A combat veteran of the Iraq War and Afghanistan, he had to do some things to stay alive and keep his fellow soldiers alive that are best kept in the past. Among his medals are the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. In addition to collecting some shrapnel in his face and body, he also returned with PTSD. He came back with terrible nightmares for a long while, and his life was a nightmare.

Always good with numbers, Adam is a personal banker. While he is tremendously good at his job, and very thorough in delivering excellent customer service, he almost looks out of character sitting there at his desk. Adam looks nothing like the bespectacled bankers of my mother and father’s time. He sits upright, broad-shouldered and physically solid (he lifts weights most every day). He is a little intimidating at first, owing in part to a red scar running from his chin to his cheek and a slight scar on his forehead.

I think he knows he looks a bit unapproachable, for he compensates by smiling and laughing, and he goes out of his way to demonstrate kindness toward the elderly and those who are senior to his age.

Over time, I have gotten to know him as a banker and friend because of two philanthropic events our company co-sponsors with his bank. The way our friendship started was because of an 8-1/2” x 11” framed picture on his desk. Actually, it is not one picture, but several pictures inside the frame that keep changing over time. They are pictures of kittens. If you know my wife Diane, then say no more!


Cat Man

When Adam came back from the service, it was all he could do to simply function. He had good doctors and support groups who worked with him, and his parents and friends were supportive, but his nightmares and emotional trauma were severe.

On a whim, one of his female friends suggested he adopt a pet. As luck would have it, a neighbor was being forced to put her elderly Russian Gray cat up for adoption. The cat was very affectionate, and the neighbor said the cat was very mothering.

“OK, I’ll take a chance,” said the ex-Marine.

They took to each other like long lost friends. The cat seemed to instinctively know when the veteran was feeling alone, troubled, frightened or scared. There were many nights when the cat stayed close to him, nurturing him and protecting the massive man from the demons of the past. In turn, the Marine had no choice but to care for the “abandoned” cat and to make sure she received loving attention. In time, the flashbacks started to subside.

But then something unexpected happened. Friends would bring Adam a kitten every now and again that was found abandoned. The Marine and his mama cat would care for the kittens and find homes for them. Then a friend who volunteered at the local animal shelter asked him if, from time to time, he could take in a kitten until it was healthy enough to be adopted. By now, I suppose he has helped rescue 20 or more kittens, and they, in turn, have rescued him.


Joy in the Journey

Sometimes the happiness we seek is right in front of us, and it is given to us as a precious gift if only we have the gratitude and observances to receive it. Will a bigger house bring you happiness? A fancier car? Your team winning the Super Bowl? Those kinds of “happy” experiences are fleeting at best.

What brings you joy? Is it something expensive and burdensome, or simple and nurturing that speaks to your core? Are you following goals you think you must go after because others have convinced you it is best for you? Or are there peaceful pleasures that fill your soul?

Adam is at peace with the past and is now at peace with himself. People all around town are blessed with “Adam’s Kittens.” The love that nurtured him is nurturing others. The key is to find joy in the ordinary. It is focusing on what’s important, capturing the good times, developing from the negatives, and when things don’t work out, take another shot. Keep your heart from hate and your mind free from worry. Give much and expect little from others. Love simply and fill your life with love. Treat others how you expect to be treated. Treasure your family, “furry” family and friends. This is the key to making you Oh So Happy!


For more information about Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author Steve Gilliland, please contact steve@stevegilliland.com / 724-540-5019 / www.stevegilliland.com.