Life is full of challenges – we face them every day, large and small.
In the 6th grade, I was awarded the Optimist Student of the Year. I remember dressing up for the award breakfast, sitting at the main table at the head of the room and receiving my award certificate. The memories from ~36 years ago are a little hazy now but what struck me the most was how big the room was and how important I felt sitting at the front table. There was a gal from our school who also won the award but the memory of who that was has slipped away.
You may know the punch line to this story already, but bear with me as I am in a rambling mood.
Getting that award and being recognized as an Optimist Student of t Year really had a huge impact on me. Throughout my life, there have been many things that could have knocked me down, heck, the SHOULD have knocked me down - I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to what was going on or if it was just my nature to keep on keeping on, a smile on my face and lots of hope in my heart that things would work out.
I think it really kicked in the previous summer, between my 5th and 6th grade, when I went to scout camp as a 10 year old. I wrote about this long ago on here but that moment, when Dad took me aside and talked to me about perseverance and sticking to the task at hand really sunk in, After that summer, there wasn’t much that I put my mind to that I didn’t accomplish. Yes, I needed a swift kick from Mom or Dad quite often, but I never gave up and I always tried to have a positive attitude.
Getting that award cemented in my brain that having a positive attitude was a good way to go about life. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? Quotes from Teddy Roosevelt on this subject are on the walls in my office, a great piece of calligraphy done by Mom hangs on my wall at home – “There is only one success in life – to live your life your own way”. There are the photos that inspire me - the pictures of my Mom as a young mother – 21 years old with a brand new baby, her whole world has changed. There are pictures of my grandfather, a young man in the Army Air Corps – flying a B29 bomber half-way around the world, never knowing if he will make it back safely from the missions he flew to see his young daughter and his wife. The memory of my dad heading to work as a police officer, never knowing if that night would be the night that he didn’t come home. There is the memory of my father so many years ago giving me the gift of quiet determination. These totems of perseverance and optimism are a huge part of my life and I think about them every day.
At the end of this week, I will have reached the 5 year anniversary of my cancer surgery. Hard to believe it has been that long but it has. On Friday I go for the last of my every 6 month scans to make sure that everything is clear and healthy. This anniversary has prompted me down this road of remembrance and insight so thanks for reading my ramblings this far!
Man - I was scared shitless when I found out I had cancer! But you know what? I tried to never, ever show it.
Why not? Because I was the Greenwood Elementary 6th Grade Optimist Student of the year, that is why, damnit! I didn’t ever want to think that things would end up bad and that the cancer would spread to my liver or my lungs or to my brain. I kept a positive attitude for my friends and my family and for myself. Heck, I was only going to be in the hospital for a few days, how bad could it be?
I was blessed with a great surgeon, I was blessed with friends who came by to see me and check in on me, I was blessed with a great family and a brother who went out of his way to help me; I was blessed with the love of a woman who next year will become my wife. I was blessed with the gift of optimism that I got from my mom and dad.
It wasn’t until many, many, many years later that I realized that being the Optimist Student of the Year had absolutely nothing, zilch, nada, nothing to do with being optimistic – the award is based on being a good student, a good citizen and a leader. In fact, I will admit that it wasn’t until fairly recently that I put two and two together finally and figured that the Optimists are similar in scope and purpose to the Rotary or the Lion’s Club. My whole life of optimism was based on the misunderstanding of an 11 year old 6th grade student version of me in Mrs. Childress’ class! It really wasn’t that I was the most optimistic student in the class!
Yes, I can laugh at myself now and man-oh-man, I do deserve it!! I am not too bright but I sure am positive!! LOL!
So, whether it was just dumb ignorance of the situation or pure optimism that got me through life to this point – I don’t know. I like to think that things will work out (and they have and are) and that is frustrating to some but from my perspective on things, having been through what I have been through – it really has been worth it to have misunderstood the purpose of that award so many years ago!
I will say though, that the Optimists have a great Creed that had I seen it years ago, it would have been right up there next to Teddy’s quotes and the pictures of my family and friends that have inspired me over the years. Here it is:
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
Thanks for reading and take care. If I don’t get back on here before Christmas, I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas!!
Stay positive! (and stock up!! Don’t forget that I am an old Boy Scout too – Be Prepared!!!)