According to Wikipedia “optimism” is a mental attitude reflecting a belief or hope that the outcome of some specific endeavor, or outcomes in general, will be positive, favorable, and desirable.
Webster’s Dictionary reads: n. The belief that good will prevail. 2. Cheerful hopefulness.
Optimism finds its roots in the Latin word “optimum” which means “best.”
I have noticed with the passing of the years that a creeping pessimism seems to be permeating our society. This has been brought on, in no small part, by a national media which consistently presents man at his worst. Sadly, much of the buying public seems to have an insatiable appetite for the gruesome, mysterious and sensational.
Then, too, many conversations seem to center around the uncertainty of the future. Generations X and Y and now the millennials are constantly hearing “the Social Security System will be bankrupt by year XXXX” or “I’m not worried about our generation, but I am concerned about my children and grandchildren.”
Of course, the concept of what has been called “creeping socialism” taking root before our very eyes should be a point of concern for all.
And then, the impersonalness (for lack of a better word) — (absence of human warmth or feeling) of big government and large corporations leaves us feeling like we are on the outside looking in — simply a means to an end.
All the above, added to an obvious decline in morality in our nation and the world at large contribute to a mood of pessimism.
So why be optimistic about the future?
We have plenty of reasons. Here are a few.
The “great experiment” in human freedom known as the United States of America remains the world’s brightest hope. I know. I know. There are still those who decry the failings of our republic and the evils of capitalism. But in the end, our nation represents the best the world has to offer.
When disasters strike in the world, the U.S, is always there first with the most. Our country’s founding was rooted in the Judeo-Christian work ethic which has sustained it to this very day.
French political scientist and historian Alexis De Tocqueville, who came to America and studied our society in great detail in the early 19th century, concluded, “America is great because America is good. When she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
America is still great because of the greatest of its people. The fact remains that the majority of our people want to, and most often, do the right thing.
Then, too, we have reason to be optimistic because of the indomitable human spirit.
Early in my professional speaking career, I enrolled in the Dale Carnegie course. You remember Dale Carnegie — “If you act enthusiastic, you become enthusiastic.” Part of the curriculum included a memory course. We were also trained in how to overcome stage fright.
As a part of our training each participant was required to tell a personal story in front of the class. One story I shall never forget.
When it came her time, a conservatively dressed woman of middle age approached the podium. She was attractive, but not beautiful. Her hair was auburn. She smiled a sad smile as she began. Her story went something like this:
“Shortly after World War II began, I met the love of my life. He was the finest man. Eventually, he signed up for the Navy to serve the war effort. It was the right thing to do. He did his basic training on the West Coast.
“We decided we would get married before he shipped out. So, a month before he was to leave, I flew to California and we were married. It was the best month of my life.
“Two months after his departure, I found I was pregnant. We were so excited.
“Then, three months later, I received a letter informing me my husband’s ship had been sunk and he was presumed dead.
“And there I was … alone. The reality of my situation was beyond crushing. My unborn baby, a little boy, would never know the wonderful man his father was, and I would probably bring him up … alone.”
Then, she smiled that sad smile again and continued.
“But you know what I found out? I found out that no matter how devastating the circumstances, no matter how your heart might be broken, you can find a way to make it. You may find it in your faith, you may find it in your friends, or you may find it by reaching deep down inside yourself. But you can make it.”
She smiled that smile again.
“By the way, my little boy turned out to be a very fine young man, just like his father.”
In my lifetime I have witnessed so many who have faced crushing disappointment and heartaches beyond human imagination, and yet so many did so with such dignity and courage. The indomitable human spirit — it is great cause for optimism.
And finally, the words of a Christmas carol “The Bells of Christmas” are still fresh in my mind — “the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth goodwill to men.”
Keep your chin up!
Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, southern storyteller and author. A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a “Certified Speaking Professional.” Copyright 2020 by Jack McCall.