Don't Worry, Be Happy

March 19, 2014



One of my favorite stories is about a small town family with a father who leaves his son at home one Saturday afternoon because his son isn't feeling well. He tells his son, "Don't go swimming with your buddies.


"The son says, “No sir, I won’t!"


The dad returns by way of the local swimming hole and notices his son in swimming with his friends. He stops the car, calls his son over and says, "I told you not to go swimming."


"But I didn't intend to go swimming. I just came down to watch, and I fell in," the boy said.


The dad began feeling sorry for his son until he noticed he had his bathing suit on! The son explained, "I brought that case I was tempted.


"So let me ask you , is there any difference in the two? Two possibilities of what is true, but both ending in the same result. Maybe it’s true that the boy DID fall in by accident, or maybe he purposely deceived his father and planned to go swimming all along. Then again, there may be a third option, the boy brought his bathing suit because he knew himself well enough to know that he could be easily tempted.


I’ve thought about this a lot and my guess is that this boy is much like so many of us. We’ve grown accustomed to expecting ourselves to buckle sometimes under even the slightest of tempations. If we are honest with ourselves we can almost see us shooting our own foot off and sabotaging our best laid plans. How many times in a week do I hear someone saying, “I can’t help myself!”, or “That’s just me, it’s what I do!”, or “That’s human nature for you”, or the most lame excuse of all, “You can’t blame me…everybody does it!”


And if someone asked me, “What is the one thing in life that you are best at?” I pray that I would not have to answer, “Oh, I’ve mastered the art of collapsing under the pressure of temptation.” The truth is if folding under pressure was an Olympic event, I’m afraid that some of us could fail at world class speeds. I know I’m not alone in this, but I believe we’ve all seen people who look as though they’re actually TRYING to fail.




Oh yes, I know…dumb question right? Like the time at the book store when I politely asked one of the sales girls, “Excuse me, where’s the SELF-HELP section?” and she said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.


Man, sometimes you can’t win. However that’s a good example, because there is always someone wittier than you, always someone smarter, always someone more successful, more educated, better looking or richer.


Ok, not better looking then, but definitely richer!The thing is, I write about our little Jesse never giving up, so I’ve thought about this idea so much. After all, if a person doesn’t believe what they write, or what they say, or what they do then our lives might just as well be an exercise in hypocrisy.


Our lives must be more than just something that looks good from the outside.


Take away the smoke and mirrors and the righteous persona evaporates. The term NEVERGIVEUP must be more than a slogan. Dare I say it needs to be more of a CALLING! Because for kids like Jesse…IT’S REAL!!! We know that Jesse’s memory was pretty much erased with his injury. It’s as though he was born the day he awoke from his comma at the hospital. It was then that his brain, damaged and atrophied as it was began recording again. Sights, sounds, smells, emotions, this was it for him. This was his new normal. Life would now be hard for him. Learning would now be a slow process. Gone was the high speed progress he was making as he was growing into a very active little toddler.


For Jesse, there was now no turning back. Someone had taken out the bridge behind him, they had burned the ships as it were, there was no retreat and for him there was only one direction available…and that was FORWARD. No place on the road ahead for stopping, slowing down or holidaying, and definitely there was nowhere to give up.


Maybe that’s an advantage for Jesse, not having the reasonable choice to get distracted, or slack or doubtful about his direction? Maybe that is why he has been called inspirational by so many? Yet I feel it myself, inspired by him that is.


Jesse is the only person I know that is not off course even a little.


I say that in good conscience. You may think that those options do not present themselves to him but they do. He has his favourite TV shows and his favourite things he does with us at home. Yet we can pull him away from his favourite things at any time and get him ready to march out to one of his therapy sessions (which aren’t always comfortable for him) and we don’t hear a whimper of complaint from him. He could act out in anger or crying or resistance just like any other 30 month old but he doesn’t. It’s just like he understands what he must do. Those are the times that we, his grandparents and his mother know without question, that WE CANNOT GIVE UP!


Jesse favourite song has always been “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFarrin. It’s a rare occasion when that little melody whistled in his presence doesn’t bring about a huge smile. If we get as far as singing the verse he is usually laughing by then.


And isn’t it amazing that we didn’t have to tell him to smile in that song? We didn’t have to tell him not to worry, but to be happy. Is it possible he understands more than we know? Who can say?


But I will say this to my little buddy…


That’s the attitude Jesse! That’s what inspires! And that’s what’s gonna win!


Bob Arrigo

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