I recently overheard a group of folks who appeared to be very wealthy lamenting the future of our country. They were distressed over the impending economic disaster and, while secure themselves, worried that their children had no viable future. In their opinion, a young person in the United States has nothing to look forward to. Pondering their predictions, I found myself getting sucked into the pit of negativity. Before joining the conversation, however, I reflected on our current tremendous blessings, similar negative predictions from the 70’s forward which did not come true and most importantly, where my hope lies which is not in temporal circumstances. These thoughts also bring to mind a trip to Haiti after the devastating earthquake. We attended church Sunday morning and the pastor, after praying for numerous other countries experiencing hard times, urged his congregation to count their blessings and offer thanks. This in one of the world’s poorest countries in which most of their homes and buildings had been reduced to rubble. I get a tear in my eye and conviction in my heart every time I think about it.
One of the chief determinants of healthy aging is attitude. Are we fundamentally critical and negative complainers or thankful and positive encouragers. C.S. Lewis, in “The Great Divorce”, writes of a woman who grumbles and complains constantly. The narrator suggests to his teacher that “she is only a silly, garrulous old woman who has got into a habit of grumbling and one feels that a little kindness and rest and change would put her alright.” The teacher acknowledges that some can repent and turn from such miserable ways but many have practiced their negativity for so long that they are in a kind of bondage. They are no longer “grumblers” but rather have become “grumbles”, negative to the core. You see, attitude is a choice until it no longer is! Then it can be a cruel taskmaster. I have seen both extremes in my patients. There are the sad ones who find a dark cloud in every silver lining. Nothing satisfies them and they are always angry about their lot in life and at those who have contributed to their miserable state. These folks are by definition unhealthy. Then there are the all too rare joyous ones who, despite brutal circumstances, remain positive, thankful and hopeful! Several faces come to mind and I’ll tell you about one of them next time.