A powerful call
“…we’ve found that optimism can be a powerful call to action. And it has a multiplier effect: The more optimists there are working for a better future, the more reasons there are to be optimistic.” – Bill and Melinda Gates
One of the most pernicious aspects of despair is that it snuffs out the motivation to do anything at all. Nothing seems worthwhile, meaningful or even fun when we are in the grip of despair. And just as optimism has a multiplier effect, so does negativity and despair. If we give up on life, we lose not only our own happiness, but also the exponential effect of whatever joys we could have inspired in others who, in turn will radiate that cheer outward so that it spreads indefinitely.
I’ve been guilty of gloom more times than I care to remember, knowing even as I am venting to a trusted friend or loving family member that my complaints are not doing anything to make anyone’s day better, least of all theirs or mine. I try to be forgiving of myself and others when we find ourselves caught by pessimism and frustration. Even so, I know this is not where I want to stay, or how I want to live my life.
Some people might say it’s easy for Bill and Melinda Gates to be optimists; look at their unimaginable fortune. But riches do not eliminate the human struggles that go along with each and every life. Many wealthy people have chosen to end their own lives, or to break faith with their life partners or families, or just generally to misbehave in countless ways, searching restlessly for more. Money is not the antidote to despair, as often as it may seem to be.
I admire the Gates and others like them, who use their means (whether small or great) to bless the world and leave it a better place. When I’m feeling low, I often find inspiration in learning more about the deeds of those who are ahead of me in this regard. Whether reading about the Gates Foundation and their many projects, or visiting with like-minded people in church or community settings, such optimists provide a virtual “shot in the arm” that inoculates me against the malignant spread of discouragement.
Billionaires tackling global diseases and water supply challenges have much in common with everyday heroes working in our hospitals, schools, communities and homes. All are doing what they can, with what they have at hand, united in the belief that whether or not they see the effects instantly, their work is not done in vain. These are people I look to for encouragement during dark times. Their light shines on the good that is always there, waiting to be recognized. Today and every day, I hope we will see them…and BE them!