Choose Happiness

Many years ago I was in the Army, and stationed in Germany.

I was the Battalion Commander’s secretary, and Command Sergeant Major Middleton was the Battalion Commander’s right hand man.

CSM Middleton was a bulldozer of a man. I secretly believed he was Frankenstein’s monster.  He looked the part with his large body, squared shoulders and often frightening face. I couldn’t see the bolts on his thick neck, but assumed he’d had them removed with plastic surgery.

I further backed up my theory by the fact that he lived to terrorize everyone. It was his sole purpose in life. Our troops dreaded his visit to their company. CSM Middleton would make them stand at attention while he yelled at them. If he couldn’t find something wrong with them or their work, he would make it up. He didn’t care.CSM Middleton

I had often suffered his wrath, since my office was right next to his. But there was one day when all that changed.

It was the week before Easter, and I woke up that morning in a wonderful mood. Nothing in particular had happened to cause the good mood, I just woke up feeling on top of the world. It was spring, blue skies, colorful flowers bursting from window boxes, and I was walking on sunshine.

I got to work and heard a thundering sound at the far end of the hall that was charging straight for my desk. The Colonel’s driver leaned over and said, “Look out, here comes the Sergeant Major, and he’s in a bad mood.”

Well the Sergeant Major was always in a bad mood. He came to a roaring stop at my desk and started yelling at me. “Did I do this? Did I do that?”

Me at my desk

Me at my desk

Remember, I was walking on sunshine that morning, and no one, not even the Sergeant Major, was taking my good mood away from me. So I did something I’d never done before. I smiled at him. Big! I smiled and said cheerfully, “No, but I will.”

He stepped back bewildered. He didn’t know how to deal with this. He was used to people cowering in fear, not smiling in happiness.

He left the office.

On my lunch hour I went over to the PX and bought a card with Charlie Brown and Lucy on it. On the front of the card, Charlie Brown said to Lucy, “You know what’s wrong with the world?” and Lucy replied, “No.” Charlie Brown said, “There’s too much apathy.” On the inside of the card, Lucy said, “Who cares?”

I bought the card and wrote in it, “I care, have a wonderful day.” And I bought a big chocolate bunny, since it was almost Easter, and I placed the card and the chocolate bunny in the Sergeant Major’s office. Instead of letting him take my good mood away from me, I decided to share it with him.

That afternoon he returned, went in his office and then left. He never said a word about the card or the chocolate bunny.

It was several days later before he came back in the office, and when he did, he had changed into my friend and ally. He was kind, smiled, and shared stories of his travels. He never yelled at me again.

When I left Germany, it was the Sergeant Major who threw me a going away party with cake and gifts. I cared, and so did he.

Every day we have choices to make. I discovered happiness is a choice. I encourage you to choose happiness, and don’t let anyone take it away from you. Instead – share it!

3 Replies to “Choose Happiness”

  1. Kathy McIntosh says:

    Lovely. And it sounds just like you, Sherry. Have a great weekend.

    • Brice says:

      Greetings,After reading all the posts on this blog, it brgouht back my own memories upon leaving the Navy back in 1994. Seems such a long time ago, but the familiar experiences have not changed. I was a trained Fire Controlmen, self-taught on the Tomahawk and Harpoon Cruise Missiles. Good times and lots of training in advanced electronics. Upon leaving the service, took a supervisor position at a security firm while applying for employment with the Sheriff’s Dept. Took approximately 6 months to gain the position at the Sheriff’s Dept., worked at the county jail for 3 years till I got tired of baby sitting all the inmates and wanted to continue my education. I attended community college, but found it to be too slow for me.…and so frustrating trying to get the correct sequence of classes. Little over a year of slow progress at the community college while working full time graveyard shift, once again at a security firm, I decided to take the big plunge and go full time, poor student route to finish my degree.I attended the California Maritime Academy and put myself through school, with many financial difficulties, but knowing the end result would be worth the discomfort I was experiencing. I graduated in 2003, with my degree in Marine Transportation and my USCG Third Mate Unlimited License. As most Americans have no idea, suffice to say, professional mariners are licensed by the USCG while maintaining the standards within the CFR’s.…and anyone who has not had the pleasure of such fine reading, and needs to fall asleep quickly, take a look at it. Since graduating and including my time in the Navy, I have sailed on 28 different ocean going vessels, sailed around the world and lived abroad in Japan for several years. But with all this experience, and tons of knowledge working 12 hours day, every day for months at a time while at sea.…I found myself unemployed since March 28th, 2009.At first, took my vacation in the Philippines for almost two months, returned, upgraded my license and was scheduled to report to a container vessel in Singapore in August, 2009. A few days before flying out to meet the ship, I was informed the contract for the vessel was dropped by the government and given to another vessel. In short, I was in a pickle. Had thought, no big deal.…I will find another vessel to hop aboard and continue to sail the seas. As we all know, 2009 was a really bad year to be without employment in hand.…found no vessels that needed crewing, while did have a few job opportunities, I was now competeing with ship captains who were taking lower level officer positions to continue working themselves. In short, a highly competetive environment, no matter how good your resumes looks on paper.I am now just about to start my new job on monday, March 29th with the USCG as a new Marine Inspector. This past year sucked. No other words comes even close to expressing how difficult it has been, but I find myself looking back as I know it is so much worse for so many other ex-military veterans. Do not be discouraged, and I will end my rather long story with the following: If the path forward is impassable, then look for another way to acheieve the end goal for yourself, your family and your own personal self-worth. You have to be happy with the work you do, and yes, money is a factor, but happiness should also be a big factor. This new position I am taking, while its an excellent job and will bring a great deal of benefits, I am taking an almost $20,000 loss in income to obtain the position.…at least for the short term, my salary will be back to my normal levels within two years. Do not lose faith in yourself and know civilians can never fully understand the sacrifices made on their behalf.…and I will not even start with the number of watches I have stood over the years…and I am officially not in the military, but the maritime service is very similiar in a organized command structure and has very strong bonds with the Navy.I thank all veterans of all branches for your efforts and self-sacrifices made on behalf for the defense of our nation. May God continue to watch over and protect all our armed forces till all are safely home with their own love ones.Sincerely,Jesus Silva, Jr.

  2. Rita Richardson says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I hope you are well this Easter. Take Care.
    Your friend Rita Richardon

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