Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
January 3, 2010
A dose of optimism can help you turn problems into blessings
Optimism is a good medicine. It has no bitter taste. It can even cure bitterness. I have used it all my life and I can testify that optimism can heal many of the ailments that bedazzle us.
Like many medicines optimism needs to be taken every day. A dose a day helps you make a habit of looking on the bright side of every situation. If you have to choose between an apple a day or optimism, then choose the latter.
Of course optimism does not make everything wonderful. It just changes the way you respond to the strange things that happen to all of us.
Take your underwear for example. You put your shorts on daily for years. It is a very simple task. Then one morning you slip and fall, twisting your ankle. You have to use a crutch for several days. But that is not all bad. Using a crutch reminds you to have compassion for people who are truly crippled and have no hope of recovery. By controlling your attitude you use your carelessness to make you a more caring person.
Optimism is especially helpful in treating the dreadful disease called cynicism that causes its victims to look for the gloomy side of everything. Cynicism thrives on pessimism but a healthy dose of optimism will quickly cure it.
Optimism does not make us immune to problems; it changes the way we look at problems. It allows you to turn a problem into a blessing. It helps you to laugh instead of cry. Actually that may be the best way to change a problem into a blessing – simply laugh about the problem.
One evening as I walked out of a Pensacola restaurant I felt a big raindrop fall on the front of my shirt. I said casually to my wife, “I think it is starting to rain.” She glanced at my shirt and doubled up laughing right there on the sidewalk, in front of God and everybody.
One look at my shirt and I knew why she was laughing. No, it was not raining. What I thought was a big raindrop was a blob of pigeon do-do. I had been had by a pigeon that thought I looked like an outdoor toilet.
In that unholy moment I found it impossible to join my wife in laughter but I did have several options. I could curse the pigeon or moan about my misfortune. Or I could wipe the mess off my shirt and walk on. Like milk spilled on the floor there was no way to change what had occurred.
So at this point I let optimism take over. Pessimism could not help me; it would have supposed the pigeon was on his way back to hit me with a second dropping. Choosing not to whine about my plight, I put a positive spin on it, telling my wife that I was a very special person. Likely that day I was the only man in America, or perhaps the whole world, whose shirt had been the landing field for pigeon manure. She continued laughing but I felt better. I had refused to allow pigeon dung to get the best of me.
My day of the pigeon took place more than 25 years ago. All these years I have looked upon that incident not as a disaster but as a very special day in my life. Think about it this way: it happened once and it has not happened again. In 77 years there has been only one pigeon-dropping day.
What is more, I have never heard of that happening to another human being. I have never met another person who shared my honor. Considering that there are more than six billion people in the world, and probably half that many pigeons flying around, you must admit that I am a very special man. I wish now I had saved the shirt. I could have displayed it in a glass showcase.
Laughing at a problem can have long-lasting results. My wife and I laughed about the pigeon muck then and every time we recall that day we laugh again. I can merely say the word “pigeon” and my wife starts laughing.
So I view it in a positive way. Despite the smell I turned my problem into a blessing. Hearing about my being pelted with pigeon fertilizer had made other people happy. So even on my worst days I can still be good for something.
Irish blessings are special to me. I love this one dearly:
“May those who love us, love us; and those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts; and if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles so we will know them by their limping.”
In the spirit of the jolly Irishman who composed that prayer, I offer this doctored version of another Irish blessing:
“May the road rise up to meet you; may the wind at your back be so strong that pigeons will not fly over your head. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. May you realize how blessed you are that it was the rain and not warm pigeon compost that fell softly on your shirt. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand and shield you from the pigeon that wants to make you a very special person.”
Believe me: optimism can turn a problem into a blessing. So have a good dose of it and watch out for the pigeons in the New Year. + + +