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Try stealth optimism

I just read the funniest blog post from some guy named Matt Walsh about everyone’s inherent duty to return their carts to the cart corrals at our grocery or big box stores.

He wasn’t so outraged about the damage rogue carts do to innocent parked vehicles. It was more about taking responsibility to return that which you have borrowed. To spend that extra five seconds to push the wayward wheeled contraption to safety. Ultimately, I am making the leap that this seemingly simple decision to either return your cart to the corral or leave it unattended and vulnerable to large gusts of wind really does matter.

Truly, the smallest decisions can make the biggest impact. Taking the dog for a walk and picking up his leftovers means the difference between someone else’s lovely stroll through the park versus expletives and disgusting soles. Buying extra food during your grocery store trip and giving it to the food bank can be the difference between a family having a meal or not. Even going through life as my friend Cathy does — envisioning that everyone you see has an inner light that should always be met with a smile — can change the smile recipient’s entire mood.

I’ve admitted that I am an incurable optimist. It probably goes with my aforementioned syndrome. I thought about it and tried to decide if this outlook was because nothing truly awful has happened to me and thus I have no concept of bad things happening to good people. Or that I just haven’t been downtrodden enough to be negative. However, bad things have happened in my life with no apparent reason so that’s out. I’m not downtrodden but I know others who aren’t either and no one is accusing them of being optimists.

So I’m thinking that it’s either something inherited from my mom, the author (in my mind) of, “If someone doesn’t have a smile, give them one of yours,” or I was just born with it.

Regardless, I also think optimism can be taught, modeled and adopted. Surround yourself with enough happy people and it rubs off. It’s very hard to be a snarkfest when you’re encircled by giggling.

Making the decision to work on your happiness quotient can be a million tiny decisions all of which can make a big impact. Instead of responding to a surly clerk with a snarl of your own, take a deep breath and consider what crises that person may be handling right now. Haul out your pleasant face.

When assaulted by yet another negative rant by a coworker about their unfair treatment by the boss, help her look for an upside. It’s stealth optimism. And it really does make life better —not just for the recipient. For you too.

After all, imagine the impact of not just taking your cart to the corral but offering to take the grandma’s or the twin toddlers’ mom’s cart too! That’s a mutual warm and fuzzy for everyone involved. All from a seemingly thoughtless decision involving a grocery getter.

Amy Albrecht is the executive director of the Center for a Vital Community.


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