Beth Jacks Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 3, 2009

Gray skies are gonna clear up… if given chance

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

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~ Old Proverb

Are you one of those people who forwards stacks of negative e-mails about how the U.S.A. is going to hell in a handbasket? If you are, may I suggest that you are, in my humble opinion, most likely adding to the problem. Personal, thoughtfully considered opinions are welcomed in my mailbox; copied, mass e-mails aren’t.

I receive at least a dozen of these manufactured messages every day, maybe more, and usually delete them immediately, while offering prayers that someway, somehow, the senders will consider their blood pressure stats and calm down.

I chanced on the following passage from the movie, Old Yeller, and quote it here as a good, homespun way to emphasize the importance of a positive mindset, even in the midst of adversity:

“Now and then for no good reason a man can figure out, life will just haul off and knock him flat, slam him agin’ the ground so hard it seems like all his insides is busted. But it’s not all like that. A lot of it’s mighty fine, and you can’t afford to waste the good part frettin’ about the bad.  That makes it all bad….

Sure, I know – sayin’ it’s one thing and feelin’ it’s another. But I’ll tell you a trick that’s sometimes a big help. When you start lookin’ around for something good to take the place of the bad, as a general rule you can find it.”

The trick is to let ourselves look for the good. Our problems in this great country today are huge, but they’re not insurmountable. Time is essential – the problems are not going to be corrected overnight – and optimism is the catalyst for a successful recovery. In the meantime, we can pitch bad attitudes and develop a couple of habits that might help, not further drag down family, friends and neighbors.

First, quit sending all that boo hoo, “end-of-America-as-we-know-it” junk to the people in your computer address book. More than half of the content is false or exaggerated, and when you’re called on it, you have to turn around and send a mea culpa because you didn’t take time to check accuracy.

I actually had one acquaintance send me and several dozen others one of these doom ‘n gloom messages with this notation at the top: “I don’t know if this is true or not, but it ought to be true.”

I cringed and hit delete. Bing!

Second, we should remember we have an opportunity during these bad times to grow as individuals and as communities. British poet Anne Bradstreet describes the situation like this: “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. If we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

And remember Uncle Remus, that wonderfully wise old fellow? He said, “You can’t run away from trouble. There ain’t no place that far.” If we look at adversity as inevitable but recovery as eventual, we can eliminate some of the negativity that depresses us and everyone around us.

Our little red-headed granddaughter Caroline is an old hand at this adversity thing. She was consoling her kindergarten friend Lillie the other day because Lillie’s feelings had been hurt by another playmate.

Six-year-old Caroline put her hands on Lillie’s sagging shoulders, looked her straight in the eye, and said, “Lillie, everything’s going to be alright, I’m telling you. I’ve been through all this before.”

Six years old and the embodiment of optimism! If Caroline can do it, so can we.

Let’s quit bad-mouthing. Get tough, but not mean. Eliminate falsehoods and half-truths. Stop using worn-out scare tactics to promote our own agendas. If we disagree with something, let’s write and speak our own, well-researched opinions instead of being a ditto head. And let’s try to be patient.

Finally, most important of all, we should look for the good and count our blessings. They’re there – we just have to wade through the negativity to find them.

I’m working on this. How ‘bout you?