I saw an article about the Optimist International organization, which, as its name implies, tends to foster a glass-half-full attitude. Turns out the group was founded in St. Louis, and even though old-fashioned services clubs are waning, new clubs are sprouting up and resurging globally.
There are a lot of events in the news to be concerned about, but there’s a good case for an optimistic point of view. A can-do attitude tends to be able to see solutions and accomplish things to help people. Plus, it can lower stress, which tends to foster better health and probably makes you more fun to be around.
There are still good reasons to see the positive in life.
Although our highways could be in better shape, it is amazing how quickly and safely a traveler can move around town or across the country. Our family went out of town through a recent snowstorm, and I marveled at how the roads accommodated our relatively high-speed travel, kept usable by crews who cleared the blowing snow and our all-wheel drive vehicle.
Decades ago, the two-lane windy roads were more hilly and narrow. The snowplows were less powerful, as were personal vehicles. A century ago, getting out in significant winter weather would be unthinkable.
Extreme winter weather has brought power outages in some regions this week. Still, electricity is commonly available in abundance; it’s affordable, and power service is restored as soon as possible. A hundred years ago, electricity in most homes was not even a thing.
The average middle class home is utterly opulent compared to generations ago or to that of most people across the globe.
We have heat to keep us comfortable these last few weeks and air conditioning to keep cool in summer. Machines that wash our dishes and clothing are common appliances. Drinkable water flows into our homes. Food is almost too plentiful overall.
Few people are engaged in backbreaking labor, like literally digging ditches with a hand shovel. Extremely few Americans spend their waking hours mining with a pickax or plowing behind a beast of burden.
There are often debates about how to pay for extending medical services to people who can’t afford it. But these life-saving treatments are available in the first place, and wealthy countries like ours send personnel and supplies to many places where people often die of common ailments we assume were eradicated decades ago.
There are debates these days about public health directives such as mask mandates, closing bars and restaurants and what government entities have the authority to dictate.
My brother lives in Central America. Last year, the national government set up military checkpoints on the main highway. It built barricades and ditches on rural roads to restrict travel. He and his wife were each assigned one day of the week when they were legally allowed to go out in public. Even still, they got to spend more time with their family those other six days.
Most of us can trust our neighbors. Life expectancies are still into our 70s. Education is readily available.
Even with these trying times of isolation and economic, social and political dislocation, life is still pretty good for most people, whether we realize it or not — or it’s at least improved by a positive attitude.
Fred Rogers of the famous kids show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” had optimism. He glowed with it, as well as kindness and a mountain of other positive attributes. He told a generation of youngsters touching lines like: “I like you just the way you are. You make each day a special day. Just your being you.”
“You can NEVER go down the drain.
“Often you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”
And, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Mr. Rogers’ glass was always to some degree of full. Maybe our community, and the world at large, can be more like his neighborhood by adopting his peaceful, reassuring attitude.
Even in hard times and unfortunate circumstances, optimism might tend to help us overcome.