It’s not very hard to find issues to complain about when writing a weekly column or for that matter sharing a comment or two at the water cooler. The state of our political system, financial markets, economy, weather, society inequities, education, entitlements, employment, health insurance, regional and state issues, corporate greed, sporting events, addictions, and the list goes on and on. Any one can look around and see things that needs to be addressed and highlighted if we are ever to generate enough public outcry to bring about change.
The problem I have with highlighting these issues is that you always begin looking at things in a negative light, focusing on what’s wrong rather than what’s right with our society. We’ve all met people who never look at the glass as half full, they depressingly always see it as half empty. Complaining after a period of time can become counter productive. As opposed to being an agent for positive change, you can be seen as a distributor of bad news or even worse, anger as people grapple with the feelings of helplessness and dissatisfaction, especially if all they do is read or hear about problems and are then left feeling hopeless.
In keeping with the glass half full, all one needs to do is look around and there are many, many reminders of people who face tremendous challenges in their lives and yet remain remarkably positive. In our office we have a woman who has just gone through a very difficult time battling cancer. Despite the operation and chemo treatments she has been positive, upbeat and inspiring to all those around her. She could have taken a medical disability leave and had a few months off while she went through all the treatments but instead she made it clear that she would be at work as often as possible, not because she had to but because she wanted to. Her work ethic, her approach to life and her determination to remain consistently positive throughout this process has served as a valuable lesson to all who’ve witnessed her handling of this challenging disease.
We have another young woman in our office who at a younger age was a poster child for the March of Dimes. While she struggles with the effects of Spina Bifida, her outward demeanor and winning smile can warm even the coldest hearted person. She is a joy for our staff members who work closely with her and a dedicated hard worker who is committed to be a productive employee. Again she could complain about the unfairness of her condition, but she chooses to not to let it be a hindrance as she goes about living her life and not looking for any special treatment.
I learned a cousin of mine was recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the devastating condition known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that leads to the condition termed a “glass coffin.” The mind remains intact, but a person with ALS loses use of his hands, arms and legs, then has trouble swallowing and breathing. Most die from suffocation three to five years after diagnosis. There is no cure nor is there an affective treatment. But instead of complaining or rolling up in a corner he has taken the highest of all possible roads by going public with his condition and establishing a fund through the Pittsburgh Foundation to raise awareness, support and comfort to ALS families and to support research in finding a cure and treatment, knowing neither will come in time to change his fate.
He recently gave a 15-minute overview presentation to the Pittsburgh Foundation that can be see at www.LiveLikeLou.org in which his positive approach to his dealing with the disease shows a remarkably brave man who is making the most of every day he has available to him. Our family is unfortunately spread out across the country and while I don’t know this individual closely, having only been in his company a few brief times in my lifetime, I found viewing this video to be a very humbling and yet extremely empowering experience. The strength of character and demonstration of courage is truly remarkable.
Examples like these role models are all around us. I’m sure most of you can think of people you work with, friends, family or neighbors who shrug off the their own misfortunes to inspire and set examples for others. Given that, it seems almost incomprehensible to complain about the small, everyday irritations. All the aforementioned issues in government or society take a back seat to focusing our attention on the really important thing in life which should be doing good for others. The really big issues in life are nothing more than life itself and service to others rather than self. The sooner we can focus our attention and support to those who need it the most the sooner our perspective on the world will start looking better.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.