Does Your Community Have A Gratitude Attitude?

My column from the week of February 22 in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel.

Boris the shysterCan a negative attitude make or break a community? It is always interesting talking to people when they move to a new community. Does negativity itch, get scratched, become infected, and break open and spread to an entire community?

I was feeling the negativity recently in conversations with different groups of people. Some outsiders, you know, those who move into a small community but never fit in because — gasp — they aren’t from here, remarked that it was hard living in a community always being reminded they couldn’t do something a new way because it has always been done a certain way and they wouldn’t understand because they aren’t from here.

Another group was complaining about businesses and business owners and things not being the way they thought they should be, so they would never support the business again and they would tell everyone about it.

Another conversation was with business owners. They told the opposite tale of nothing ever being right no matter how hard they tried. And admitting they weren’t always cordial to their customers because it was hard keeping the smile on their face day in and day out in the face of such negativity.

As a former business owner, as a customer and as a person who moved to a smaller and new community for a short time, I could identify with the feelings of all of these groups. I have been the crabby customer, I have been the crabby business owner and I have felt like the outsider. I must say all of these situations fed the negativity in me, the negativity that resides in all of us, and festers if it is fed by our contact with each other.

Here’s a little tip, not everything that is said is entirely accurate all the time so as Mr. Negativity is fed, it grows sometimes with untruths and explodes. Pretty soon we all jump on the bandwagon and join in because we want to fit in to the conversation.

There is a saying in business that the customer is always right, but I don’t know if I agree with that premise in the world we live in today. My reasoning comes from a phone call I received when I was in business. The phone call actually wasn’t for my business, it was a wrong number but when I picked up the phone the language and screaming coming out of the other end was not for the faint of heart. I asked who they were calling and they named the business. I told them who they had reached, and they profusely apologized and hung up. The phone rang again, it was the same caller, and they apologized again for their language and their rudeness as it was to be directed at another business. My thoughts were why apologize if they were going to call the other business and repeat the mistake message I had heard. No business owner deserves to be treated to verbal abuse.

They say it takes 10 compliments to cancel out an insult. As an author, I get reviews on my books and most of my reviews are positive but it is the one negative that I always remember and the same can be said for things said in our communities.

Bullying wasn’t a big factor for me when I was growing up. I can only remember two instances in my middle school and teen years when it happened to me. The key is I remember those instances, the negativity directed towards me, more than I remember some of the positive complements or experiences during those years. And I remember who directed those attacks. The memories of those people’s actions have lived on for more than 45 years.

The best way to keep our communities from growing — the best way to close our businesses — is to not support them by our words, what we say and by how we treat those who are new, those who choose to run their businesses and those who chose to shop and visit our businesses in our communities.

Choose to help our communities and our businesses grow by planting seeds of encouragement and positivity instead of feeding the weeds of negativity shutting down anything positive that is trying to peek up between those weeds. The choice is ours. Our communities health may depend on it



It’s All In The Attitude!

Peaceful lakeview1024

Peaceful lakeview1024 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t always had a very good attitude towards life. Sidelined by an illness last year gave me a lot of time to reflect. During my illness my attitude was horse_____.  You know what I mean. Part of that was feeling crummy and part of that was depression and anxiety. I wasn’t filling myself with positive messages. I came to the conclusion what I should have known a long time ago. What and who you surround yourself with will make a difference in your life.

I used to play a song for my children from Brite Music. I can’t remember the name of the song but some of the words were “Garbage in, Garbage out.” Meaning you needed to get rid of the negative stuff in your life.

I was filling myself with negative messages from the news, from my self talk and possibly from some of my surroundings. I had to dig myself out of a hole. Luckily there were many positive people in my life that lifted me and encouraged me. These messages seemed to always come at a time when I was at my lowest. It might have been a phone call or a visit. It might have been book or a positive card. I found I had to isolate myself from some of the negative forces in my life. Some of that included negative people.

I am feeling more positive, joyful and optimistic. It is hard to stay that way if I listen to the news, surround myself with negative vibes and join and do things that go against what I feel inside. That is another way we fill ourselves up with negativity. We join to be liked. We join because it is expected of us. We join because we don’t want to be left out. It is not that joining is bad but joining or doing something that is more of a burden and doesn’t fit our personality or our passion wipes us out. When we do that we don’t have time for the causes that make us passionate and possibly could do a lot of good. Just because we are good at something doesn’t mean we should be doing it. Perhaps we should take a chance at that which we are terrible at but fills us with joy.

Before spending all my time on the couch contemplating life and feeling rotten I had a bad attitude. I realize that now. I was frustrated that my church wasn’t changing and offering more contemporary things. I was frustrated with community things that weren’t being  promoted. We have so many wonderful things in my community if the outside world only knew about them. I was frustrated with everything and if there was nothing to be frustrated with I found it and I complained about it. I believe this attitude brought me down.

I realized that it is not my church that has to change. If everyone else is happy then it was I that had to change. It is not my community that has to change, it is I that has to change. If things work for everyone else why should they change for me? Maybe they don’t need changing but it is my perception that has to change. There are wonderful people in our churches and our communities. If everyone would have the attitude that I had it is no wonder that our churches and communities would come off as having a negative attitude and good work would quit being done. That change in attitude had to be my attitude.

There are a couple of blogs that helped me realize this. One is The Change Blog by Peter Clemmons and the other is A Flourishing Life by Gail Brenner Ph. D. I have added them to my blogroll in case your want to check them out. Occassionally we all need help staying positive.

Recently my community had a very positive campaign for a new school. I was proud to be able to support that. But the best thing about that campaign was the energy it brought to my community. It was positive energy that spread out to each and every individual that was a part of that campaign. Positive attitudes bring positive results.

Things can only change in our lives if we start with ourselves. We can’t change other peoples attitudes. We can’t change things that maybe don’t need changing because we want them changed. We can only change ourselves, go forward with anticipation that the choices we are making are right for us.

Will I  be negative again? Probably. I only hope what I have learned this past year will stay with me. Will it be easy? No. I have to remember to surround myself with positive people, positive readings, positive experiences that will carry me through the tough times in life that are going to come. And if the old negativity is creeping in I hope one of those positive people with remind me in no uncertain terms that my attitude needs changing.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude  Maya Angelou