My wife and I visit family in North Carolina near the Outer Banks around July 4th each year. Believe it or not, the summer is just around the corner full of family get-togethers, beach time, golfing (or more golfing) and kids out of school for the harvest – aka television and texting to get a sleep over together. As for our family we enjoy the sunny festivities in a particular NC town by the water.
Watermelon immediately comes to mind. Also, bouncy inflatable castles, kids with snow cones and music playing. There are miniature train rides for children and the usual carnival foods we indulge in. I wear a hat not to get sunburned being a very fair skinned person. We usually spend a few hours in the day and then come back for fireworks at night.
Our nieces and nephew absolutely love it. Seeing their smiles is the heart of why we do these things, which makes sense. I noticed a few years ago that the Optimist Club puts the festival together with the ethos clearly written: “Friends of Young People”. According to their website, Optimist Clubs assess the needs of young people and put plans into action. They also have a creed, which basically amounts to – be positively optimistic – so much so that you beam it. I like that and it encouraged me.
Despite the problems our country and our world faces, I believe with the Optimists, that we can always look up and see the brighter side of things.
Culturally, at least in media, Americans seem to be losing the spirit. I don’t blame us considering the circumstances. In fact, there is a spirit of full-blown anxiety over the future of our reputation in the world concerning our military presence, our economic prowess, and our ability to pay our debts as well as balance our budgets.
Recent tragedies also remind us that our world is not a safe place. We are people that live on land masses floating on superheated rock, surrounded by water, beneath the clouds which strike with the electrons of lightning and we look to see closely the vacuum of space which has no oxygen for us to breath. It would be easy to dwell in the pit of despair.
The good news, however, is that this is nothing new. People in every empire, tribe, nation, or family have had to come to grips with the reality that living life is not an easy thing. Corporately, it is even harder as the human family grows to fill more niches. In spite of all danger, what the optimist has that the one who despairs does not, is the ability to get beyond the situation. You can’t make a plan if you’ve already given up. If you fear the future, you can’t run to it. Time moves onward whether you’re hiding or running into the winds.
On the Friday before Easter Sunday, we retell the ending moments leading to Jesus on the cross and the darkness overwhelms his story. If anyone deserved a good ending, it was Jesus, a teacher – a healer. But he was killed and died like very other human that ever lived; and in an unjustified and terrible way. Then three days later a stone rolled away, his tomb was empty and an angel told the people “he is not here, he has risen.” God did the “impossible” to show us that evil and destruction are merely obstacles that when confronted are walls that can move.
I don’t think an optimist is someone that denies that the world is a crazy place. I think that they are just those who see it and choose to make things better than they were before they arrived. That can mean cutting watermelon for the kids on July 4th, or being a voice that forces a nation to realize petty arguments. Each person is created, and has the potential to do an infinite amount of good.