“You need to have a good mood. Good family, good children, good work, and then you’ll be happy,” he added. “You need to be a sociable person. I love and respect all people. After what happened to me, I don’t only value my own life more, but I deeply value the lives of all human beings. It’s very important to have good company and good friends. I view everything with optimism, it’s very important.”
As a grandchild of a survivor, I’ve always had a special interest in Holocaust studies. I have read many memoirs and attended numerous classes on the subject. But, from the very first class in a small Israeli school in the suburbs of Afula, to the courses I attended in a large North American university — I had always felt that something I had learned from my Grandfather was missing from these lectures.
For years, I had trouble pinning down that missing piece. It frightens me that my grandfather’s gift may have been lost all together: No one would have known that there once lived a man named Srulik Ackerman, who challenged our understanding of human nature, and with that, could bring hope in even the darkest of times.
…after just a few minutes with my Grandpa you would see the mystery that had perplexed me for so many years. The first thing that would strike you would be his wide, welcoming smile. Grandpa smiled and laughed more than anyone I knew. He took every opportunity to tell jokes and bring joy to others. Without a doubt, Grandpa was the happiest person that I had ever met.
How was that possible? I spent two years writing his memoir, hoping to discover his secret. But, even after the book was complete, I still had no idea what gave him such unparalleled resilience.
So, I decided to ask him directly. “How do stay happy on a daily basis?” I asked during one of our conversations.
Do yourself and your kids a favor: Get to know a Holocaust survivor so you, too, and your children can understand how a human being can survive and thrive in the face of death. There aren’t many survivors left, but there are countless resources through which you can interact with their thoughts and experiences. Tomorrow, the United States Holocaust Museum is sponsoring a Google+ Hangout with Holocaust survivors specifically geared towards school-aged children. Take advantage of this opportunity to get to know the real “secret” to happiness.
And don’t forget to thank them for sharing it.