Living With Optimism, Joy, and Brain Health


I am not sure why I said yes when a woman I don’t remember meeting at a talk I gave weeks ago called and asked if I could speak at a meeting of a local Optimist Club the day before Thanksgiving. But I did.

It was a relatively small group – all except a few were over 65, equal parts men and women, and very racially diverse. They meet every Wednesday at a restaurant in a hotel just off Interstate 8. The soup of the day was vegetable beef and the special was a taco plate served with re-fried beans and rice. I ordered a cup of hot tea and sat in one of the booths to arrange my materials so the workshop I planned would flow well. I was trying out a new format – no technology, no PowerPoint, no devices.

The President rang the bell and woman asked us all to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Then another member stood to lead a prayer. I was a bit uneasy and braced myself to respectfully attempt to blend in to the background. The non-denominational blessing ended on an upbeat note and I let out my breath, relieved.

The President and another member pulled out a long stick with felt rolled around it. I was standing behind them so I could not see what was written on the felt but I heard the strong confident voices reciting these words.


OK, you have my interest and are speaking my language…


Wow, it was getting even better. Keep going….


As the scroll rolled out, the voices in the room got stronger.


Can this get any better, stronger, more hopeful?


Seriously powerful and hopeful words recited, I noticed, by heart – some with eyes closed but all with hearts wide open.

That, my friends, was a hard act to follow….

They gave me a piece of ceramic – a place to rest my coffee cup, the woman who invited me explained – with those words painted on the surface.

I am so grateful to this group for reminding me that there is hope and there is a way to get there together.  Our challenge is to share optimistic thoughts and good intentions in loud voices, and to raise the bar on our expectations. My hope is that, in the end, those efforts will shift a few who will shift a few more who shift a few more and so on.

This piece originally appeared on Cranium Crunches Brain Blog!

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