I frequently am reminded of one of the many phrases that came about during President Reagan's time in office when the country appeared to be sinking into an economic abyss, "Don't worry, be Happy."
Well, that is where I am today. I worked with a young man once who was wiser than his years should have allowed. One day when things were going especially downhill, he walked into my office and with an all too knowing look simply said, "Vicki, sometimes you just have to show up and be happy." Bill was right, sometimes we need to take life less seriously and be happy that we are on the upper side of the grass; sometimes we need to just smile. Sometimes smiles can turn into laughter, and we all know that laughter is the best medicine, and it is contagious!
Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be so unhappy that you don't smile, or laugh? I have had people tell me that is isn't that they are sad, but that they just don't have anything to smile about. Not me. My life is rich and full, even though not necessarily with wealth and material goods, but with contentment and love of family.
Even it weren't, however, I am sure that I would find a way to smile. Then there are those with whom I meet who have such sourpusses, lips turned down and almost angry personas; I worry about those people. What could've happened to them to cause them to be so unhappy? Of course, they probably wouldn't tell me if I asked, so I just smile and go on about my way.
Smiling and going on about my way is a lifestyle for me. Growing up in a large family was not always easy; we were extremely poor and sometimes life was tough, but I was always the one who looked at the glass as half full, even when it was closer to empty. Even today, I can hardly wait to look up at the sky in the mornings and find the tiniest patch of blue, and I smile. And then there are people who make me smile by just thinking of them, sometimes I whisper their names, or remember a fond experience; just thinking of these people causes me to smile and brings me a sense of joy in even the darkest of times.
Sometimes all it takes is a smile to brighten someone's day. Smiles are like hugs that you can't always give. I mean, after all, why would you walk up and hug a stranger? (Although plenty of them seem to hug me; it makes Richard just shake his head and ask, "Do you know that person?"). I have seen people who are sad and practically in tears, but a gentle touch and a smile is all they need to perk them up and to let them know that someone cares - and I do care.
Caring about others is not just an act of kindness and compassion, but it is necessary if we are to survive - everyone needs to know that someone cares about them. I find myself wondering about those who would prefer to be stoic and uncaring. I wonder if they realize just how happy they would be and how much more fulfilled their lives could be if they would just shed that misery and anger that keeps them from smiling. Sometimes the best people hold onto bitterness and misery for so long that it takes up residence in their hearts and blocks out everything that is good - smiling can cure that.
Now, for those of you waiting for my usual political and/or controversial commentary, here it is. The unemployment rate is still above 8 percent; the economy is not growing like it should be; there are still too many people unemployed and way too many on welfare, Medicaid and receiving food stamps; Osama Bin Laden is dead; the war in Iraq is over, and the Afghanistan Armed forces embedded with our troops are now turning their guns against the very people who are trying to help them. Our embassies are not as protected as they should be; one of our Ambassadors and three other Americans have been murdered; Iran is still touting its desire to become a nuclear power in the Middle East; and our National Debt continues to increase at an average of $3.85 billion per day.
The election is just a little over a month away; we have a choice of status quo or change. If you believe passionately about your candidate(s) of choice let them know, put signs in your yard, bumper stickers on your vehicles and join their campaign; and VOTE. But just remember, if your candidate of choice doesn't win, don't worry, be happy. In the words of Scarlett O'Hara, "After all ... tomorrow is another day." And remember, it is still better to laugh than to cry.
Have a great day.
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org