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Posted by Kevin Salwen on 09.22.2010Share

It's a funny thing, these brains of ours. Sometimes they force us to look through negative, downtrodden eyes; other times they give us the option to see the world in a more positive light.

I thought of this today as I was standing outside my mother's Manhattan apartment building, talking to an elderly woman who was waiting for a bus. We began discussing the U.N. General Assembly, which is meeting here in town.

"Things seem to be getting so much worse," she said. "The crops we eat are all full of pesticides. Our water is unsafe to drink. I just don't know about the future."

Her comments made me think for a second. Was she right? Is the world a huge mess? Is it getting worse? "I don't know," I replied. "My kids wake up in the morning believing the world is pretty good -- and thinking they can make it better. So, how can I be pessimistic when I see that?"

Then I pointed across the street at a construction site. "They're building a Whole Foods over there," I said. "Five years ago, our food was full of pesticides and we didn't know it and couldn't do anything about it. Now, we can choose to eat organic food with no pesticides. At least we have more control."

The BM-1 bus pulled up at that moment. "Nice talking to you," she said. Then she paused and added, "You made me feel better. Thank you."

I guess it's all how you look at the world. I remain an optimist -- and I hope my fellow optimists and I can keep spreading the gospel. Want to join me?

Yeah, Kyle, thanks for your great note. I couldn't agree more about the energy, the hopefulness, and more. Bravo. I had to laugh about your "street corner in NYC" line. As I walked down the street, I pondered the idea of becoming New York's Great Optimist. I'd certainly stand out! LOL.
Posted by Kevin at 11:52pm on 09.22.2010

Kevin, I do want to join you! What you say is very true... being pessimistic does not create enthusiasm or energy; it doesn't inspire one to be in action, and it's not forward looking. In order to create positive change for the future, one has to see the potential, a vision of what's possible, and a hope and belief that it can happen. Pessimism is really for people who don't want to make the effort. But when you have the courage to believe in change, anything is possible! It's always the choice of what you want to focus on... how bad things are, or how good they could be. Your family has proven what is possible when you focus on possibility, you are living proof! And continuing to spread the word is just as valuable. It's not often cool to be optimistic; in many crowds you are really written off as naive, or airy-fairy, as if those nay-sayers actually "know for a fact" that something is hopeless. Again, it's what you focus on. All I see around me are people the world over doing extraordinary things to ease suffering, help others, and all manner of improving the lives of the less fortunate. If you want to believe in the goodness of mankind and the myriad ways we are helping one another, it's there in spades. And obviously, if you want to focus on all the folks who are NOT helping the situation, that abounds in spades as well! But there's no cheese in those perspectives, why bother looking at something that just zaps your energy and makes you discouraged? So I applaud your talking a stand for optimism on a street corner in NYC! Hopefully by making that woman feel better (which I applaud her for thanking you, as well), she will find it easier to see the good rather than the bad in the coming days, if not longer. And to do my part, I promise right now to publicly take a stand for optimism at the next available opportunity!
Posted by Kyle at 9:49pm on 09.22.2010