In my travels, I regularly park in a downtown Cleveland garage. It’s one of those somewhat old-fashioned garages where you pay an attendant on your way out.
The attendant’s booth is usually staffed by an African-American woman who appears to be in her 40s. I always say hello and ask her how she’s doing as I pull up, and she always — always — responds with a cheerful “I’m blessed” and a smile. You can tell that she absolutely means it, too. Then she wishes me a good day, and I drive on — always feeling better, and uplifted, by our interaction.
Her short phrase and attitude has really stuck with me. I am not a religious person, but there obviously is something about this woman’s faith that allows her to be a radiating source of infectious positivity. Some people might look at her job and wonder whether working in a parking garage is all that great a blessing, but I don’t. I don’t know the woman’s personal circumstances, but she’s got a job and is physically able to do that job, and she is happy about that. Viewed from that perspective, she is blessed, and she’s not shy about telling people so.
I’m not saying that the power of positive thinking will turn your life into a beautiful dream, but I do think perspective matters. Often, people can choose to be positive or negative about their lives, and their choices in that regard have consequences. If I’m offered a choice about interacting with someone who is a downer or someone who is upbeat, I’ll take the person who says “I’m blessed,” and means it, every time.
You wouldn’t think it to look at it now — with the gates firmly chained shut, the ground frozen hard, and everything snow-covered — but I’m anticipating being out on the old golf course before March is over. Four Sundays from now, say, I’ll be walking out on green grass on a sunny morning, carrying my sticks for the first time since October and looking to shake the rust off my game.
It’s called positive thinking — or, perhaps, delusional thinking. Take your pick.
It’s hard not to be depressed about the anvil drops on the stock market. Many of us have lost about 10 percent of our intended retirement nest eggs in the space of only a few days. However, my grandmother said every cloud has a silver lining, and I always have tried to follow my grandmother’s wise advice. So, here is my attempt to come up with some positive thoughts about the recent performance of the stock market:
* It’s knocked the stories about the Ohio State football program off the front page
* I’ve been told that gray hairs make me look distinguished
* I probably won’t like eating dinner at 4:30 p.m. until I’m in my 80s, anyway
* Hey, maybe now people won’t think I’m “wealthy” and want to increase my taxes!
When I saw this piece, it reminded me of UJ’s postings on positive thinking and The Secret. The author questions whether the power of positive thinking and the constant exhortations that people should act happy and be happy, haven’t been harmful to our culture. The issue is whether trying to be upbeat at all times causes people to overlook real problems and issues. If something is wrong, why shouldn’t an intelligent human being be unhappy about it and complain about it?
I don’t think there is anything wrong with positive thinking, and I think there is nothing wrong with doing things that ten to make you happier, like listening to music that you like on your commute, rather than risking higher blood pressure as a result of listening to the news. In my view, the problem with many “positive thinking” type books is that some people read them and conclude that they are entitled to be happy. If you think that you are entitled to be hapy at all times, and you aren’t, you are bound to be disappointed — and disappointed people aren’t happy. Being realistic about the ups and downs of life seems like a wiser course.