I always loved the story about the 5 or 6 year old boy who shoveled his way through tons of manure with a smile on his face. When asked why he was so happy, the boy replied, “Under all this manure must be a pony.” That boy is the personified definition of an optimist, or as Rodgers and Hammerstein used the term in South Pacific, “Cock-eyed Optimist.”
You can imagine how intrigued I was several weeks ago when I partook in a pancake breakfast sponsored by the local chapter of the Optimists at the Malibu Arts Festival. I was unfamiliar with this international organization which helps needy children with the money it raises doing things like selling me pancakes.
Optimist clubs are dedicated to bringing out the best in kids which is a noble undertaking anyway you slice it. Rarely have I come into contact with so many upbeat caring people. They were not shoveling manure, but dishing out pancakes which were so satisfying I returned the following morning for second helpings.
I happened to notice their credo which was strategically located where I picked up my order of pancakes. I include it here:
Promise Yourself ... to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet. To make all your friends feel that there is something in them. To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best. To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile. To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
Now I can see myself adhering to a good chunk of this creed, but (there is always a but) to be perfectly candid, coming from New Jersey, I am going to find portions of this creed mighty tough to follow. Yes, I can definitely forget mistakes of the past and make friends feel there is something in them. As for giving so much time to the improvement of myself that I will have no time to criticize others, I am certain I will always have enough time left for a little criticism.
I have no problem being enthusiastic about the success of others, but there is no way I can be as enthusiastic about their success as my own. For instance, if my friend wins the lottery for $100 million, I will be incredibly happy for him, but don’t think for one moment that happiness will remotely approach what I feel if I were to win $100 million. No comparison! No way Jose! You have got to be kidding!
I told my friend Phil Bellomy, who also likes pancakes, that I could never adhere 100 percent to the credo of the Optimists. He reassured me it was simply a goal to strive for. This will not be the last time I benefit from Phil’s sage advice.