Words to Live By

Community Life
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Posted: August 15, 2018

On a two-week vacation to Africa in November 1999 with his travel agent and some of his close friends, Owen had an experience that changed his life. He visited people living in some of the poorest conditions he had ever seen, yet they had fantastic attitudes. This prompted him to write the poem, “Choose Happy.” Owen first shared his poem with the African people who had touched his life on Thanksgiving Day during his visit.

When he returned home he shared it with his family and it stuck. The poem became not only how he would live his life but also how he taught his children and grandchildren to live theirs. Recently Owen’s granddaughter, who is currently living in Romania and going through some significant challenges, reached out to get a copy of the poem. She told her Granddad that “the poem and its reminders on how to live life would benefit me.” After Owen sent the poem to his Granddaughter, he began thinking about his friends and peers at Cappella of Grand Junction and realized that they too might benefit from it so he volunteered to share it at a daily devotional.

During the devotional Owen shared his story about Africa, what led him to write the poem, and why he felt compelled to share it with them. He said, “as one of the first residents at Cappella of Grand Junction, I had a lot of adapting to do, and it wasn’t easy. I could have gotten upset, felt like I had lost things such as my home and my life’s work but instead, I choose to be happy. And as I watch others move into the community, they too have a lot of adapting to do. So I thought I should share this poem so they too can “Choose Happy.”

At the devotional, Owen talked about his journey, displayed a photo from his trip, and talked about what the poem has meant to him. One of the residents in attendance, Ernie, was wearing a hat that Owen had given to him that had the words “Choose Happy”. Owen shared that Ernie was the right person to wear it because he embodied the phrase, “Choose Happy.”

Below is Owen’s poem and a reminder that happiness comes from within and isn’t dictated by where you live, the clothing you wear or the job that you have – it’s a choice.

“Choose Happy”

Each day of life, a contrast I see,
Happy and sad, which will I be.

At home or abroad this contrast is clear,
But what will I see when I look in the mirror?

I’ll wait not to decide there is too much to loose,
Happy or sad, which will I choose?

What makes the difference? I really must know,
That my journey henceforth might happiness show.

Not the weight of the load, nor the bumps on the way,
Dictate happy or sad at the end of each day.

Many are poor yet happy with life,
While the rich oft too busy are not free from strife.

Health and wealth make it easy to sing,
But, neither nor both can happiness bring.

Whether home is a mansion or a Masai dung hut,
Each must find happy in our own rut.

It’s not what you have nor the color of your skin,
Happy my friend, must come from within!

Mountains or plains no, it’s not where you live,
Happiness comes when to others you give.

So in the journey through life keep a smile on your face,
Choose happy my friends and continue the pace.

By: K. Owen Ash

Owen Ash reading a poem

Photo of children in Africa by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Article written by Jill Hiller of Cappella Living Solutions.

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