“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears this is true.” – James Branch Cabell
It is easy to be negative - to focus on what’s wrong, rather than what’s right. I’m as guilty of this as the next guy, probably more so, in fact. Too often the first thing I notice is the flaw and the first thing out of my mouth is a criticism. I’m not proud of this, but it seems to be the way I am.
That said, imagine my surprise at a very pleasant change in perspective I am encountering as a result of doing some work for this paper in and around our town.
The last of the spring fundraisers just occurred and one of my jobs for The Barrow Journal is to cover these events. I am a hermit with questionable fashion sense and big social events scare me, so it takes more than one deep breath and gulp of courage for me to get out of the car and actually go into a fundraiser, awards banquet or gala. Too often I’ve just written a harsh column or hurt someone’s feelings in some way, or the paper has covered some piece of news that has folks all riled up…I always expect the worst as I walk in, but I never encounter it.
Instead, I encounter what appears to be genuine politeness from the people I (or the paper) have called attention to and I usually get a warm welcome from the organizer of the event. A surprising number of people go out of their way to tell me how much they like my column or appreciate the paper. And, as the evening unfolds, I get to see, make notes about and photograph groups of people who belong to a community they clearly care deeply about. They applaud the accomplishments of their peers enthusiastically and, even in this economy, contribute generously to the cause at hand.
I walk into these events with a slight sense of dread and I walk out feeling warm at heart, having experienced and documented the connections that make up the glue that holds a community together. And, this community, at least based on what I see at these events, seems like a strong one…
It’s been a rough ride for the City of Winder lately and this paper, myself included, has been right there, reporting and commenting all along the way. Like it or not, difficult news, pointed news, what some would call “bad” news interests people; it generates more buzz than good news. It’s easy to get caught up in the mindset of the latest scandal, lawsuit or controversy and think of our town as a problem-laden place as full of issues as it is snarled traffic…
Then I got the assignment of writing the pieces that accompany the “Why everybody goes to downtown Winder” advertisement page currently in its’ third of eight weeks in this paper.
Another set of deep breaths and courage gulps, as I approach local business owners about what they sell and why they’re located downtown. I must admit, I wasn’t optimistic. The recession is still hitting people hard; our county has one of the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the state; and, downtown Winder has been in the news quite a bit lately.
Imagine, again, my surprise when what I encounter is cheerful optimism, obvious excitement and nothing but enthusiasm about being located downtown. Sure, they’re struggling; of course they’re working hard; and, yes, they’re worried about the economy. But these people come to work every day with a smile on their face, ready to provide their customers and this community with the best service they can, at the most reasonable price they can afford. They understand everyone’s having trouble right now, and it seems to only make them want to work harder at contributing what they can.
Their enthusiasm, and the enthusiasm I encountered at this season’s events, has completely turned my view of what’s going on in Winder and our community around. It’s not all gloom, doom and scandal out there; there’s some really good stuff happening…
It feels good to be optimistic, especially this time of year. Flowers are blooming, birds are building nests and the trees are alive with song. The first rose just opened on my yellow rose bush and for lunch today, the first tomato sandwich of the season (vine-ripened in Florida, fresh to me via the local produce man – another hard working business person doing what he can to bring the best to his community at an affordable price.)
Sometimes small town life is just what it’s cracked up to be, and oftentimes that is really a pretty good thing.
Lorin Sinn-Clark is a writer for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.