For twenty years, Larry Walters dreamed of flying. One day, he drove to the GI surplus store and purchased forty-two military-grade weather balloons. Larry tied the balloons to his lawn chair and secured the chair to a car with a couple of nylon tethers in the backyard of his girlfriend’s house in Los Angeles.
He gathered supplies and planned to sit in the chair for a few days, floating high above California, before popping a few balloons with his BB gun and drifting back down. Well, the liftoff part didn’t work out quite as smoothly as they anticipated. When Larry’s “ground crew” cut the tethers, he rocketed skyward at 1000 ft per minute and leveled off at 16,000 feet.
That’s three miles high.
A TWA pilot spotted Larry. “Uh, LAX… you aren’t going to believe this, but I just passed a man in a lawn chair at 16,000 feet.”
Larry eventually got up the courage to pop a balloon and drift back down.
Someone asked him why he did it, and Larry replied, “You can’t just sit around,” he said. “If I hadn’t done it, I would have ended up in the funny farm.”
Larry instantly became one of my heroes. Here’s a guy that went out and chased down his dream. I admired the tenacity of someone who would tie weather balloons to a lawn chair if that’s what it took to achieve his goals.
That’s why I was so disappointed when I heard how his life turned out.
Larry enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame. He went on Letterman and the Tonight Show. After that, he bounced around for a while. He quit trucking and became a motivational speaker.Then on October 6, 1993, Larry Walters walked into a remote area of the Angeles National Forest and shot himself in the heart. He was 44.
How could he do that? How could a man who once had the wherewithal to propel himself three miles skyward on his own invention choose to end it all?
Larry Walter’s life is a sad reminder that happiness never lasts.
Maybe that’s why the Bible doesn’t talk much about happiness, but it says a lot about joy. Joy is different from happiness in that happiness depends on circumstances. When something good happens, then I’m happy. Joy doesn’t depend on circumstances. You can have joy even when life is hard. And unlike happiness, joy lasts. So instead of chasing happiness, why not pursue joy?
I can’t tell you where to find happiness, but I can tell you where joy is. Jesus said:
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (John 15:11)