Powering through with positivity

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

We are all weary—tired of this persistent virus, of quarantines and distancing, and of ongoing divisiveness and negativity. It is easy to feel discouraged. Our “positive-attitude-reserves” might be running low, but we sure need them more than ever during these winter months and this Omicron surge.

I remember feeling discouraged when I was growing up: struggling with a concept in a class, experiencing a conflict with a friend, or just facing a disappointment of some kind. Through our daily life, my brothers and I learned to look beyond the challenge, trusting that it would pass.

If frost nipped the early, tender shoots of corn, “Well, that happens, we will figure it out.” If cattle prices or commodity prices tanked, “This won’t last. It never does.” If one of us was cut from a team or didn’t get some position we wanted, “I’m sorry. With more practice, you will get it next time.”

In education, they call what our parents taught us “a growth mindset”: the belief that improvement is possible–it might take time, but success can happen.

Who knew it even had a name?

We were also lucky to know and interact with many positivity-pushers in our community.

Mercer Munn is an example of a positive force during our formative years. He cared deeply about people. And most notably for my brothers and me, he cared about teenagers, which many adults find challenging. He took countless carloads of kids to Tiger ball games. I bet he even bought the ticket and a hotdog if one of his passengers didn’t have the money. He also gave to the community of his resources to help those in need, tirelessly promoting community projects. Vicksburg’s athletic facility is named in his honor, and a Rotary Club award bears his name.

Lori Hardy demonstrated a determined, intentional positivity when she worked with young children and their parents at the Vicksburg United Methodist Church’s cooperative preschool. She chirped like a chickadee, calling her tiny charges “Little Friends,” rewarding good behavior with kind words—and an occasional mini-marshmallow. She skillfully corralled the non-conformists, reminding them firmly—but sweetly—of the expectations. Lori could find something reassuring to say to parents, even regarding the most difficult child. “Isn’t it wonderful that he knows what he wants?” or “She is going to grow up to be so confident!” She penned many notes and letters of encouragement. She was an inspiration. “Lori Land” in the southern end of Clark Park was constructed in her honor and is now a reminder of her kindness.

Mr. Fred Rogers said, “Look for the helpers,” providing a lesson of comfort. When in a crisis, or when we are concerned, Mr. Rogers gave direction, assuring children that helpers are there.

We forget that sometimes.

“Look for the helpers”: those folks who shine a light of hope during hard times with their selfless acts or kind words, folks who give of the time and resources to make a difference.

They’ve always been here, and they always will be.

It’s a Fine Life.

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