Years ago, I heard a story about a butterfly that was tirelessly working to break from its cocoon. A man observed the struggling butterfly for several minutes. Feeling sorry for the soon-to-be-flying beautiful creature, he took his pocketknife and slit the cocoon to assist its freedom.

The butterfly fell out of the cocoon and flapped its wings a couple of times and died. The man's good intentions crippled and killed the butterfly, preventing its own natural progression of development that would lead to its soaring through the air.

Often it's hard work and struggle that enable us to develop our internal fortitude to push forward, hang on and succeed in life. Such fortitude comes with pressures and failures. Eventually, we develop the internal muscles and a spirit to walk on our own two feet and even to soar like the butterfly.

Muhammad Ali, the famous boxer, is remembered for his saying that he would float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Ali's abilities came from years of strenuous workouts and punishment to become the greatest athlete of all time.

Joy, laughter and celebration come at the end of a hard day's work. Our greatest feelings of triumph come after a long period of work and struggle to finally realize an accomplishment or a success.

I remember my dad buying a small record player when I was a kid. He bought a dozen or so records to go with it. We wore those records out. Another day came when he bought a big stereo record player that was also worn out over the years. He would work in a coal mine all week but he and my mother and another couple would often sing for two to three hours on the front porch of our house. Two to three times a week they would sing in church. Mom and Dad worked tirelessly throughout the week but at the end of the week they wanted to cut loose and sing, and many churches gladly received them.

Singing and dancing come from the soul. There has to be an internal emotion that is within the heart that desires to leap out in joyful expression. In other words, you have to want to do it and feel like doing it. I am not sure how many people today feel so good that they want to sing, dance and celebrate living. Too many no longer have even a faint hum or an occasional shuffle. Many Americans no longer have a twinkle in their eyes.

Many of us watch the news and we see a lot of unhappiness. We see a lot of rancor and critical, degrading talk on social media. There is too much unhappiness.

A lot of unhappiness comes from the world of religion. Where did religious entities and many churches ever get the idea that good religion means an unhappy, joyless person? Many Middle Eastern religious groups are all about people being glum and joyless. This is probably why some groups don't want to hear much about Jesus, who told funny stories and was the life of the party.

Many of America's problems started on April 21, 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson declared his war on poverty. He came to Martin County, Kentucky and sat on Tom Fletcher's porch while the media captured the iconic picture that put a face on President Johnson's war on poverty.

I was in Inez that day, just a child and clueless as to what it was all about. President Johnson's idea that federal dollars handed out to millions of people would solve America's poverty problems sounded good to many but it has failed. Tom Fletcher never got out of poverty nor have 40 percent of the people in Martin County, especially since coal mining is now essentially over in the region.

Waiting on a government check, food stamp allotment and government medical assistance does not bring much happiness to America's 50 million people living in poverty. Today the face of poverty can be found in any town in America and it's still as bleak as it was in 1964.

People must have work to do. A daily job, some work, a real paycheck, and a life to live give meaning, and from meaning is a feeling of purpose and happiness. When we feel good about ourselves, we hum and sing a little, dance a little and celebrate a little.

We have to get ourselves back to feeling better. It starts with our thinking followed by our deeds, and that develops our lifestyles and our destinies. Please, let's start now. Sow a good thought. Reap a good act. Sow a good act. Reap a happier lifestyle. Sow a good lifestyle. Reap a better destiny.

We can change the direction of our nation but it begins with you and me, and inside the head of every American.

Glenn Mollette is an American syndicated columnist and author.