My Grandpa Milton died when I was in 3rd grade. Although I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked, I do have many amazing memories of our art projects and outdoor adventures together. A few years ago, on what would have been his 100th birthday, my mom shared a letter he had written to her when she was just a teenager in 1962. Over 50 years after writing this letter, and about 25 years after he died, I learned an amazing lesson from my grandpa.
In this letter, my grandpa wrote, “Be a happy warrior. Fight with your heart and your soul and all your might, but never become bitter. Never lose sight of the essential qualities of life - of goodness, of God and Eternity. Try to fight for something, not just against something.” I read this letter at a time when I was struggling to find my own direction - when I felt a bit lost. Seeing my grandpa’s words, written so many years ago, yet still so applicable today, gave me peace and a new found focus. I used his words to help find my inner optimist again,as well as the strength to be a warrior for justice. I began volunteering for an organization that supports women’s rights. I also continued to teach my students about the importance of activism and being an upstander when they encounter injustice.
This message from my grandpa is one I try to remember every single day. I even had the line “be a happy warrior” inscribed on a bracelet that I wear daily. It helps remind me that every day there is an opportunity to be strong, happy and impactful.
There are many things in life that we cannot control, and our lives don’t always turn out exactly how we planned. But I believe that by being a happy warrior we can make our world a stronger and sweeter place to live.