I love life!” chirped a rain-drenched, tired, hungry contestant on “Survivor” season 31. He and his fellow competitors were suffering all sorts of bad conditions, a barrage of heavy storms, very little food (unless one counts bugs and snails), and had no shelter at the time. 

They were competing in the jungles of Cambodia, with no semblance of life as any of them knew it.

It struck me as an odd thing to say in that moment, but just as quickly the thought occurred to me that it was perfect timing. In the midst of chaos, struggle and depletion, this guy found time to affirm his love for life.

At the Life is Good store on Hilton Head, dozens of T-shirts carry the brand slogan, along with stick figure designs showing examples of a fun life – fishing, riding a bicycle, napping in a hammock. What a great reminder to be appreciative of our collective good life in the Lowcountry.

Recently, a 108-year-old American veteran died peacefully, in her sleep. Her daughter’s words, and those of people who knew her, indicate she too loved life to its fullest.

Meta Monteleon of Dublin, Ga., had served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during WWII. After her discharge in 1944, she stayed in nursing for another 50 years. At the time of her death, she was the oldest living WWII nurse.

As recently as three weeks before her passing, she attended the 75th anniversary party for the local VA Medical Center.

“My mother loved serving in the Army, Red Cross, and as a nurse, but she was also a superior Scrabble player and continued driving herself to games until she was 94 years old,” her daughter said. “Her laughter could light up a room and she will be deeply missed.” Those are words of remembrance for someone who loved life.

I love life, too. Readers might have guessed that by the name of this regular column. “Sunny Side Up” is more than a slogan or catchy title. It’s a way of life, full of positive attitude, forward thinking, appreciation for the little things, and trying to remain gracious in the face of adversity.

As soon as I heard the Survivor competitor say those words, “I love life,” I replied to the screen, “Well, who doesn’t?” And just as quickly, I knew there ARE people who don’t.

I sometimes forget that there are people out there, maybe even among my friends and acquaintances who don’t “love life.” They struggle to find joy, to find a place to fit in, to find peace of any sort.

They might be lonely, or sad, they might have suffered terrible losses. They might have mental health issues.

I think about a friend who lives in another state, and how she slipped into the abyss of addiction. Then, while in recovery, she suffered the losses of several close pals to drugs. The social media posts were heartbreaking. I hope she finds a way to love life again.

What can we do to help those among us who are struggling?

As timing would have it, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We can start by being aware and by learning more. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a terrific website, NAMI.org, and a local chapter. We can get involved, we can be an advocate and an ally, we can donate to the nonprofit, and we can help erase the stigma. 

The local NAMI Walk for a Cure isn’t until October, but perhaps we can plan now to participate. In the meantime, staff and volunteers at NAMI are available for support, for listening, for helping.

Life is good, but only if you have a reason to believe that.