Friday, December 23, 2011

The Pessimist and the Optimist

Yesterday an acquaintance received the anticipated announcement she was finally hired as a permanent employee. I was happy for her, yet felt depressed as my temp situation is unchanged, and even a little tenuous.

My husband, understanding my lack of holiday enthusiasm, encouraged me to watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, believing the silly antics of the characters would at least make me laugh. They did that, and surprisingly a little more. I also received a deeper message, not at that moment, but later.

I spent the rest of the evening mulling over my employment situation and other personal issues, sarcastically telling myself, "Well Merry Christmas -  not!"

Things changed this morning. With sleep, my first cup of coffee, and a beautiful dawn, the story of the Pessimist and the Optimist came to mind. Two boys were placed in separate rooms. One filled with every imaginable toy, the other with manure. After an hour observers went to each room to see the boys' reactions. Sure enough, the Pessimist could only complain. Nothing was right. Every toy had a flaw or defect. Noting this, the observers moved to the next room. To their amazement the Optimist was busy digging in the manure. They asked him what he was doing. His answer, "With this much manure, there has to be a horse in here somewhere!"

Well, I was the Pessimist, only looking at what was wrong, not at what was right, or could be.  Instead of thinking how my acquaintance got a permanent job and I didn't, I could think positive. If  she was lucky enough to be hired, I might very well be next. Who says it can't or won't happen?

With this thought, I opened my first devotional, Good Morning, Lord, by Joseph T. Sullivan. Today's prayer:

Good morning, Lord.
Words are just words until one day they may take on special meaning.
There are lines we have heard so often.
Then one day, their impact hits us:
"Your Heavenly Father knows all that you need."
Is this true? Is there really a divine providence?
Can we take these sacred words seriously?
What a big difference these words would make in the practical
events of life if we accept them.
We slow down and gain confidence;
life is no longer a series of uninterrupted crises.
Lord, help me to take your words to heart
and trust you to take care of me. Amen.


It was then I understood something else. We idolize the holidays, believing this special season changes the entire world and everything and everyone in it. Like Chuck Griswold, we become overly optimistic, believing in the ideal of the perfect family Christmas. Life is built on the imperfect, and we are usually greatly disappointed for one reason or another when our expectations are too high or unrealistic. Then we become pessimists at best and Scrooges at worst. I suggest something else - a true Optimist. An idealist who recognizes and acknowledges flaws, but chooses to focus on what is right, rather than what is wrong.

This holiday season will not be Courier and Ives perfect. It will be somewhere between A Christmas Story and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and with a little effort some What A Wonderful Life mixed in, filled with more blessings than I can count.

I will go one step further. Those visiting the stable on the first Christmas could have chosen to see only a poor family and a cold, dirty stable. Instead, they chose to see the glory of God and the Salvation of Man, Emanuel - God With Us. That is my choice. Merry Christmas.

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