Optimism: The Cure for What Ails Us

Is there anything you and I can do about the morass in Washington? Sorry Charlie, you and I are just a couple of powerless tuna swimming through the sea of confusion. We need to focus our effort on the things we can control.


It was another really beautiful day here in the Garden State of New Jersey. Like almost every Sunday, my wife Jackie, our daughter Ellen, and our friend Marge Wilson made our way to the early service at the Colts Neck Reformed Church. As usual, we sat behind our friends from the Cerny family and shared the latest updates about our two families. We then traded stories with another friend who had her wrist broken by a physician's assistant as he examined her for wrist and shoulder problems. Yes, just another day in church.

However, as I read down through our church bulletin (order of worship for you purists out there), I noted the topic of the sermon which was to be delivered by our Associate Pastor, Chris Van DeBunte. He was scheduled to speak on the topic of "optimism." My, what an appropriate topic, I thought, for the current period of time in our nation within which we all seem to be finding ourselves mired down in a growing national malaise.

I immediately jotted the words 'optimism, the missing element in the world today' into my always present pocket notepad. I did not want to lose the spark which the sermon's title had ignited in my psyche. As expected, Chris' sermon was right on target as he spoke of the emergence of optimism among the remaining disciples after the Our Lord ascended into heaven.

But you know me my friends. My mind began to meander in ways not envisioned by our pastor when he wrote his sermon. I began to ponder the need for optimism in our world today. Given what is going on the world around us, many among you will find it hard find anything about which to be optimistic. Foremost among our concerns is the fact that our fire service is under attack. People that we counted as friends and supporters for many years are now out working to put us out of existence, or at the very least cut the daylights out of us.

Let me give you one important indication of this change in focus. Missing at the Fire Service Caucus Dinner in Washington, D.C. back in April were the speeches regaling all in attendance just how much affection and assistance we were going to receive from the usual array of federal fire service grant programs. We heard the usual platitudes and professions of love, but something was different. Missing from the evening's festivities were the usual messages of undying support for our programs and an optimistic view of the coming fiscal year.

Notable among the speeches was the one delivered by a U.S. Senator Tom Carper from Delaware. He advised us to prepare for a year of lower expectations. He suggested that forces within government were working actively to undercut all of the fine efforts which have been expended in the creation of our federal fire programs. My friends, these were indeed disappointing words to those of us who have been laboring in the vineyards of the fire service for more than a couple of decades.

Let me change gears just a bit. Now I am going to adopt my "Little Harry Sunshine" persona to set the tone for this visit with you. We seem to be devoting far too much time to worrying about things over which we have absolutely no control. How about the debt crisis in Greece? What about the devolution of the European Common Market? Or what about the damaging effects of partisan politics on our nation?

Bull! I don't know about you, but there is not a thing I can do about these issues. Oh, these matters might be important to us all, but neither you nor I are the ones capable of addressing them. Heck, the last time I went to a European market, I bought some imported steaks. That's about it.

Maybe it's just me but I would prefer to take a brighter view of things in the world around me. That's the "Little Harry Sunshine" guy to which I was alluding earlier. As I sat out on the front porch the other day pondering this topic, it came to me that when things start to look grim a good cure for our malaise involves a sudden infusion of optimism. As I sat there enjoying a cigar and soaking in the beauty of yet one more day here on God's Green Earth it came to me.

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