Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Review: I Choose to be Happy

Sometimes, when you least expect it, a book takes you by surprise and just squeezes your heart out. “I Choose to be Happy” is one such book.
Missy Jenkins is the survivor of a school shooting in 1997 in Paducah, Kentucky. The school – Heath High School. The Date – December 1, 1997. A seemingly normal (and slightly nerdy) boy, Michael Carneal walked into school one morning and randomly started shooting a prayer group. Three girls were killed on the spot and 5 were injured. Missy Jenkins was one of the 5 injured. The shooting left her paralyzed from chest down. She was 15 years old. The incident happened less than a month before her 16th birthday. Tragic, I know. Her birthday is today, December 24, 2008 and I thought that this would be the perfect day to post my review of this book. Happy Birthday, Missy!
What makes the book special is Missy’s attitude. Hours after the shooting, right after she got to know that she was going to be paralyzed chest down and was probably going to be wheel chair ridden for the rest of her life, Missy made the biggest decision of her life. A decision that made her the person she is today. A decision that we would all like to think was easy, but we know deep down that we wouldn’t have done it. She decided to forgive Michael and get on with her life. At the tender age of 15, a girl in the hospital reasoned that forgiving the guy who shot her and paralyzed her chest down would be the only way to get over the incident and get on with her life. Isn’t that amazing? That one line changed the way I looked at life. What is the point in harboring ill feelings towards anyone? It is so easy to take umbrage and feed the fire of hatred forever. What Missy did on December 1, 1997 is something that every one of us should take inspiration from. A line that we should think about when faced with adversity.
From that point, there was no looking back for Missy. The book describes her efforts to resume normalcy in life. Being paralyzed from chest down is not easy. Missy had to practically learn everything again from scratch – right from “how to sit down”. The difficulties she went through break your heart but at the same time, you can’t help but admire her perseverance, determination and best of all – her positive attitude. She was always thankful for having survived the incident and never once complained about being paraplegic for the rest of her life.
In addition to Missy’s own tremendous efforts, what really helped her get to where she is now are a loving family and a very supportive community. Her parents and siblings practically gave up their lives to be with Missy and never leave her alone even for a single waking moment. The Paducah community came together to help the Jenkins family, and all other families that were victims of this incident. Letters and cards from all over the world did make a difference to Missy. Her mom read out every card that came for her. The donations that came in went into a fund that helped Missy for all her therapy sessions. The book reaffirms our faith in humanity.
Missy’s story is one that is filled with hope, determination, love and any other positive attitude you can think of. There is nothing but a happy ending for such a story. Missy is still paralyzed from chest down today. But she has a life. She is married and has a very very cute son. She works as a school counselor. She hopes to help children like Michael at the time they need help and wait until they show up at school with a gun in hand.
I could go on and on about her and the book but I think the better alternative would be for you to get hold of your own copy. Missy Jenkins is a very admirable person and this is a book that every one of us has to read – without exception. This is a book you can turn to in hard times for inspiration. Seriously!
Visit Missy's website here.
Thanks to Langmarc Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book. 


softdrink said...

Good for Missy for being so positive!

Thaks for a wonderful review...and happy birthday to Missy!

Charley said...

She sounds like a lovely woman with a wonderful attitude toward life. Have you read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby? I found that to be an incredibly inspiring story.

Lezlie said...


Merry Christmas, Ramya!

Dar said...

Great review Ramya. I read another positive review of this one recently. It sure does sound like a book of inspiration. Another one for the list this year.