“No matter what I choose to become, I believe I can change the world. And as I am striving to change the world, I will be happy.” -Sam Berns
Sam Berns was a boy with wisdom beyond his years. Even though he died, his remarkable story lives on. His mentality was something to be admired. It is not easy to remain so positive and happy through such a difficult situation as his. He was diagnosed with a rare, rapid aging disease, at the age of 2 called Progeria (Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome).
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” -Ferris Bueller
This extremely rare and fatal genetic condition is characterized by an appearance of accelerated aging in children. Most do not get to live past their teens. Just about a month before he passed away he gave a speech at TEDxMidAtlantic in Washington DC presenting his philosophy for a happy life. Before this, he was featured in the Emmy award-winning HBO documentary called Life According to Sam.
Sam accepts and embraces his circumstances. In the beginning of the documentary film he said:
“I didn’t put myself in front of you to have you feel bad for me. I put myself in front of you to let you know you don’t need to feel bad for me. I want you to know me. This is my life, and progeria is part of it. It’s not a major part of it, but it is part of it.”
His mother was a resident intern at a hospital and his father a pediatric ER doctor at the time he was diagnosed. After discovering their sons condition, she devoted herself and her career to studying the disease. With the help of her husband (Sams father) and family she established The Progeria Research Foundation (PRF). The foundation was run by her sister and together they raised $1.25 million towards identifying the gene that causes the disease. The documentary gets into the details of their research which involves Sam and other children like him.
The marvelous thing about Sam is that the disease is not the biggest part of his life. He never dwells on the problems it brings nor does he want anyone to feel bad for him because of it. This is clear and understood in the way he acts and thinks, without him having to even tell us. His life was all about overcoming obstacles and moving forward regardless of his condition.
In the Ted speech Sam recalls an interview question by an NPR reporter:
“What is the most important thing that people should know about you?”
“I have a very happy life.”
Nothing ever stopped him from giving life his all. He was an outstanding student, he excelled in music becoming a musician in the school band, he had friends that loved him, and the list goes on. His mother said in the HBO film (When he was still alive):
“You are handed something, and what you do with it is what matters, and that’s what Sam is doing. I’m impressed continually by him.”
His philosophy for a happy life is narrowed down to 3 important key points:
- “Be OK with what you ultimately can’t do, because there is so much you CAN do.”
- “Surround yourself with people you want to be around.”
- “Keep Moving forward. This mentality includes staying in a forward-thinking state of mind. I try hard not to waste energy feeling badly about myself, because when I do I get stuck in a paradox where there is no room for happiness or any other emotion.”
Even though it was understood that his life would be short, he was always super positive and so optimistic about his future. He quotes Walt Disney in his presentation:
“Around here…we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things.”
Sam’s documentary and speech continue to touch the hearts of countless people. His life may have been short but the legacy of his courage lives on in each heart he touches.
“Being brave isn’t supposed to be easy, but it’s the key to moving forward.” -Sam Berns