To the guy who stands at the entry to my local supermarket and hands out shopping baskets, always with a smile and a cheery greeting, I salute you! Yes, you’re paid to do it. But I’d hazard a guess that you’re not paid to smile infectiously, to say your “hello” and your “welcome” with such gusto and goodwill.
As the lady at the checkout scanned my groceries – peanut butter, cat food, cream, flour, chocolate (just one block) – I watched him grin and hand baskets with unwavering happiness.
“He’s always so cheerful,” I said out loud.
“I know,” the checkout lady said, without needing to ask who I was talking about.
“And you know, I’ve never heard him say a bad word.”
I think we all know someone like my super(market)man.
In fact, a friend comes to mind immediately. She’s been known to turn on the sun during some pretty dark times. It’s not that she’s happy all the time, just that she is always searching for the positives and she chooses to focus her energy there.
Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave an insightful speech at the latest Global Leadership Summit. Besides being blown away by this woman’s smarts, I was struck by something she said about leadership: “I am convinced that the most important quality of a leader is of irrepressible optimism.” What an exciting, generous-sounding term. Irrepressible optimism.
But optimism tends to be considered the weaker option of the human perspective trifecta (the other two being pessimism and realism). Pessimists and Realists populate our culture in the majority so that an Optimist here and there stands out like a mohawk in a nursing home.
Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
The optimists in society are the visionaries, the dreamers, the achievers. They say “I can do that”, they see a way forward against the odds. They never concede defeat. And leaders by nature are a cluey sort – the best will know that negativity doesn’t inspire people to action – which is what Condoleezza was getting at.
Mind you, optimism isn’t sticking your head in the sand – who could condone that? It’s being aware of the beauty and the ugliness of our world and choosing to maintain a positive attitude despite it all.
Jesus was – is – an irrepressible optimist. And his message is one of positivity.
“In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world,” he says in John 16:33. Life may have dealt you blow after blow, but Jesus invites us to believe for better. His life is a case in point. Jesus died a painful death on the Friday and his friends mourned his passing. They were grief-stricken despite Jesus having already told them that he would rise again. On the Sunday, Jesus’ tomb was empty. He was alive and his friends rejoiced.
After hardship comes deliverance.
Paul knew it when he wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).
Over and over, the Bible invites us to seek out goodness. I encourage you to find some of the verses that prod us towards positivity and take one as your own motto.
What’s there to lose?
Besides, it makes life so much more enjoyable.
PS – anyone know who Super(market)man is?
As printed in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column, Monday November 26.