It’s quite easy to hold onto personal beliefs so dear they might as well be set in stone. I previously was not one to let go of deeply rooted principles that had stemmed from long, drawn out, periods of thought. I suppose it’s fair to call me ignorant, because this characteristic still hasn’t been completely scraped off, like how gum or anything tacky can leave a residue when you try to remove it. When I debate and find I’m losing, or a moment comes where I find what I once thought was the only thing that could float in the vast sea of “truth”, has holes throughout and the water is spilling in, I realize these are not necessarily waters of truth, but of ignorance. That’s when life changing moments occur for me the most, when I admit that I am wrong and my once deeply cemented beliefs are chiseled out and questioned. April 27th through May 1st was one of those times.
Before that week, I had a preconception of negativity, and it didn’t take much for me to gain a cynical perspective, toward America and society. It seemed to me that everywhere I looked there was greed, corruption, immorality, and a general sense of hopelessness. “It’s all about consumption here,” I said.
On our first day back to school, Monday, I went with the remaining people of my high school, of whom did not go on a trip to Washington D.C. with the other students, to the Preble Street Soup Kitchen in Portland. My experience there reinforced this negativity. Even the 300 or so homeless people, who came to be fed, were selfish and greedy, only wanting the best of the best desserts, and apples, and not being happy with the amount of food they were given, which was all free. The majority of these people, no doubt, had little money, and did not get a chance to eat warm food like this often, and if they did, it was most likely because they lived off the food of the soup kitchen. You would expect them to be thankful for the times they can come in and get a warm meal. After serving, I left there with a sense of hopelessness for the homeless, and I felt as though how those people acted was the pinnacle of how humankind acts when there is nothing holding them to a standard of cleanliness or morality. All I could see from this experience was the negative aspects.
The next day, however, was much different. I went to the Maine Veteran’s Home, with the group from the day before, in South Paris, where I met a man named Gunny, who was a zealous, genteel, gregarious, elderly man. He had served in the Marine Corps and he shared with me humorous story after story, and if the premise of the story wasn’t all that comical, he still made it so. He had truly the grandest old-time in the Marine Corps, as part of Tank Company. He had driven tanks and amphibious vehicles, played soccer, and loved the food he was served during his time there. I always saw the military as dismal. He made the military sound so eventful and enjoyable I almost felt like joining myself. We then went off the topic of military, and he shared with me amusing details of his current life. I found that even though he didn’t live in his own house, he was without a lot of privacy, and could not go off the property of that veteran’s home often or at all, he still appreciated everything he had. He told me, “I like this place.The food is good, I’ve got a bed to sleep in, and I got a roof over my head, and that’s all you really need.” I went away from Gunny, reluctantly, but also pondering on all these new cognitions I was formulating in my head. This man was so thankful in the face of his circumstances, but if I were in his place, I would be miserable. He clearly is a man who strives to get the most out of every situation. Overall, his optimism was infectious. I understand it can be hard for elderly people in Gunny’s situations to be as positive as he was, but knowing someone who didn’t care about the negatives and only the positives gave me the sense that I should focus more on the positives of life.
The day after the veteran’s home, I watched a movie with the same party called “America: Imagine a World Without Her”. The movie started out by listing all of the negative affairs America is associated with and how people can easily focus only on these matters and develop disdain for this country. However, later, the narrator went on to give logical explanations of why if America did not do the things it did, we would not have the benefits of this grand country we have today. In the instant of finishing the movie, an immense impression of patriotism. I realised there were so many positives to America, and the reality of the fact that I lived here opened my eyes to see this great country in a new light, a positive light. I have a great life, and I’m sure I have a lot more than most people my age would love to have. I’m truly blessed, and Gunny’s grateful heart rubbed off on me.
When I came into that week having been pondering all the problems and issues our society faces, I forgot the concept that deserved my attention. I forgot to be grateful.
Gratefulness brings you, not just one step closer, but two steps closer to positivity. Even before that week I struggled with having a more positive outlook on life and the people around me. I wasn’t grateful for my peers because I, ironically, focused on their lackadaisical attitude and their pessimism. I spent the worthless time to pick out all the flaws I could find in everything and anything. I needed all of these collective moments to spur me into realizing my attitude. I needed to humble myself and recognize that my judgmentalness was not making my life more valuable. I had this condescending demeanor that, “I had my act together and I knew right from wrong”. I finally realised that life is too short to waste time on being so petty. I have to focus on the positive and see the good. How can I expect my life to be good if i only focus on the opposite? After that week, I truly believe I discovered a concept of life as marvelous as finding the holy grail. I learned that if I looked at everything through the lenses of positivity, life would regain its quality again. Of course there will be hardships and, simply put, lousy moments in life, but that doesn’t mean I should dwell on them. I learned that I have to stay positive no matter the circumstances. By the end of the day, it all boils down to this, why not be positive at all times?