Project Happiness: How One Parent Inspired Optimism

Melissa Fay Greene’s adopted son was angry and depressed—until a science fair project they completed together turned his head around.

From Carried in Our Hearts
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine October 2013


Courtesy of Melissa Fay Greene
The author (and proud mom) with Daniel before his senior prom, May 2013.

He shyly presented this material to his science class and was startled by applause. Kids clapped him on the back and said, “Good work!” He/we got an A! Two years later, in ninth grade, he revisited this subject in more depth and felt validated again by an A and by the interest of his classmates. By then, I believe, he’d begun practicing what he preached.

One night last week, my tall and relaxed 11th-grade son unexpectedly joined me on an evening walk around the block. There was something on his mind. Six feet tall, he amiably slowed his pace to allow me to keep up. “Mom,” he said, “I am deciding what to be in life.” We’d discussed this recently in preparation for a visit to his high school adviser. “I want to be the person who helps other people to feel happy. Last year a boy from school killed himself, you remember? He was sad because his girlfriend dumped him. I want to be the person who tells him, ‘You can be happy. Do not kill yourself.’ I can do this? This is a job?”

“Yes, this is a job,” I said.

“What is this name?”

“Well, psychologist or therapist,” I said.

“Yes, that is what I want to be.”

Oh my God, I was thinking.

Not, Oh my God, as in, This is a total disaster.

Oh my God, as in, Parents do matter. Look what we have done together.

Courtesy of Melissa Fay Greene

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