Happy to be happy


Shaina’s shrill instruction interrupts my thoughts. I don’t feel like singing. I’m tired after a challenging day; frustrated by a thorny communal issue. Maybe if I pretend not to hear, she’ll do a solo “Bo’ee Kallah”.


She’s not taking no for an answer. I’m not in a singing mood, but she doesn’t get that. Shaina’s always ready to belt out a tune. She doesn’t understand the adult world and our insistence on clinging to a bad mood.


I press pause on my burning issue and hit play to duet with her favourite song. She points at me and giggles. She’s hooked me into her world of happiness.
Shaina loves to be happy.

She’s happy to meet people, play with dogs, push a shopping cart, paint her nails, see her friends and especially sing and dance. Thirty seconds after sobbing through a blood test, she grins.
Shaina spent most of her recent winter vacation in ICU. Drained by her illness, Shaina slept for days.

When she’d stir, she’d be too weak to smile. And she didn’t like it. She didn’t like that she couldn’t dance or even hold a device long enough to watch a music video.

Aptly, her hospital stay coincided with the time of year when Jewish tradition calls for reduced joy.
Still, she flashed a thumbs up at her nurses and even whispered “good job” to one of them. She’d wave her hand to start dance parties with the medical staff at her bedside. As she grew stronger, her eyes twinkled again.

When I pushed a wheelchair alongside her hospital bed and announced that she was going home, her rosy cheeks lit up.

Shaina was delighted to come home.

This week, she returned to school. Teachers and students swamped her with hugs and dancing as soon as she arrived. On her first day back, we received dozens of photos and videos of her beaming face. She is ecstatic to be with her friends again. She swings, colours and plays ball with gusto. We’ve still got a way to go before she can handle her regular school day. At this stage, she crashes for a two-hour nap when she gets home from two hours at school. She dozes off with a smile.

She is happy to feel healthy and to be with her friends. More than anything, she is happy to be happy again.

We all say that we want to be happy. It’s not that simple. Life brings disappointments and frustrations. We mentally chant the mantra, “If you’re still smiling, you don’t understand the problem”. Research indicates that some of us are addicted to unhappiness.

Our family doesn’t have a choice. When we feel down, frustrated or annoyed, Shaina pierces our self-pity with her high-pitched demand, “SING!”.

She’s so happy to feel happy. She doesn’t need a reason. Shaina is at her happiest when those around her feel the same way. We are trying. Luckily, we have a very demanding Happiness Coach.

Happy to be happy

Published by rabbiarishishler

Husband, father and rabbi of Chabad of Strathavon in Johannesburg, South Africa.

8 thoughts on “Happy to be happy

  1. May Shaina’s beautiful neshoma conrinue to inspire and bring joy to all those who she comes into contact with. Wishing you all a beautiful Shabbos.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a gift you have with shaina. She gives a reality check . No matter her challenges she loves life and life loves her. Wishing her a continued refuah shelaima and to keep making you all happy!! She’s fabulous xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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