Happy days are here again,

the skies above are clear again…

-Jack Yellen


I marvel at people who despite enduring the worst of circumstances, choose to create lives of positivity. They enthusiastically embrace opportunities whenever they present. Such individuals embody a state of being that I call, positivity-waiting-for-an-opportunity – an attitude, that if grounded in reality, can be of enormous value to both themselves and to others. These people travel through the good and the difficult circumstances of their lives with the hope that “happy days WILL be here again” and “the skies above WILL clear again”.  What a contrast this is to people who choose instead to live in a state of negativity-waiting-for-an-opportunity!

An example of an individual with an abundance of optimism, humor and positivity, is Sam Harris, one of the youngest survivors of the Holocaust. He endured immense cruelty as a child and lost most of the members of his family. Between the ages of seven and a half and nine, he hid in two concentration camps. If he had been found, he would have been killed. Yet optimism has accompanied him throughout his life – a companion, too, against strife.

In 2014, knowing that it was imperative that Sam Harris’ remarkable story of surviving and thriving be captured in a movie, filmmaker Eric Cosh and I made an 87-minute documentary feature film about him: SAMMY THE JOURNEY. We explored in depth, the history of this remarkable man. The movie subsequently played to full houses and had standing ovations at a number of International Film Festivals. Sam was twelve years old when he arrived in the USA, excited about the opportunity he believed he now had of creating a brand new life. I subsequently wrote a book about him and an accompanying workbook: IF YOU CAN MAKE IT, MR. HARRIS…SO CAN I.

Sam Harris was fortunate enough to survive the Holocaust when the majority did not. He recreated himself in America starting at age twelve when he arrived in this country as an orphaned refugee. He embraced the opportunities that presented. I interviewed him for the movie and then again recently:

Ellen: Sam, despite enduring a childhood filled with cruelty, sadism and horror, you then chose to lead a life of positivity, generosity and optimism. You actively chose not to focus on negativity and blame; instead, you turned towards the light and as a result, you continue to this day to brighten the lives of thousands. Not only did you survive, but you also thrived! Yet you were a twelve-years old orphan when you arrived in the United States on the Ernie Pyle.

Sam: I was twelve years old chronologically but in reality, based on my experience, I was about fifty years old. My thoughts were not of an average twelve year old. I had no fear of what my future had in store for me to the best of my recollections. After all, what was there to fear that hadn’t already happened to me? My thoughts when I was on a ship on the way to America were that I would have freedom and live life without anti Semitism. I was looking forward to getting good food, not ever again experiencing starvation and I was also looking forward to learning.

Ellen: One of the memorable observations that you made when I interviewed you in SAMMY THE JOURNEY, are these words describing your thoughts as the ship pulled into New York Harbor: “I was thinking nothing but good thoughts”, you said. This intrinsic positivity that you chose to nurture even at the early age of twelve, was astounding to me. After all, you had lost most of your family during the Holocaust. You had lived in concentration camps and then in orphanages. You had faced so much terror and so much insecurity. And then even being in the U.S.A. had huge challenges, too. Life in homes for displaced children like you, then in foster homes and finally, the adjustment to life with your adoptive parents. Despite such a hard start in those early, formative years, you chose to create a life for yourself of growth, achievement, service, and accompanying all of this, cheerfulness.

Sam: Yes, I always seemed to choose having only good thoughts. All I wanted to do was move forward and make the most of the opportunities I now had. Ellen, you used the words “negativity waiting for an opportunity” which we see all around us. I have chosen the opposite throughout my life, that is, not to dwell on anger and hate. There is no point to that. Life is about building both for yourself and for others, too.  (READ THE FULL INTERVIEW)