Like many Americans, we packed up after the last day of school and headed out of town for a Memorial Day vacation. We spent the weekend at the beach, where our schedule was dictated not by the clock but by the sun, tides and weather. Reading, romping in the surf, playing tennis and walking the dog on the beach were our major activities this past weekend. Without outside appointments or commitments, it was easy to lose track of time, day and date.
The sound of the surf was rhythmic, constant and almost hypnotic as I walked down the beach. It was a reminder to me of how insignificant I am, and how powerful God is.
Instead of filling me with trepidation, this knowledge filled me with comfort and peace. I'm less important than I might have thought in the "grand scheme of things," but more thankful. The knowledge that the ocean continues to roll in, day after day, month after month, year after year, puts our temporary problems into perspective and allows for a longer perspective to take hold.
The reminder of God's power and presence through the natural beauty provides me with tranquility about today and hopefulness regarding tomorrow.
We are a country in need of hope. A recent Rasmussen Survey "finds that just 35 percent of likely U.S. voters now believe America's best days lie ahead." Almost half of likely U.S. voters, 47 percent, believe America's best days are in the past." (The national survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted on May 25-26, 2011, by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.)
If we're a country that is in need of hope about America's future, we should ask ourselves: Where does hope come from, can we cultivate more hopefulness, and can we function better in the challenging word in which we live?
Martin Seligman, a founder of Positive Psychology, the Zellerbach Family professor of psychology and director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, notes in his book "Flourish" (Simon and Schuster, 2011) that the optimistic style "is to see bad events as temporary, changeable and local" (they impact one aspect of your life, but not your entire life, don't last forever and can be changed).
Challenges that seem permanent, insurmountable and pervasive (high gas prices and rising food inflation) can be viewed instead as temporary, changeable and local. In this example, high gas prices and rising food inflation clearly affect the economics of our life, but not the health of our bodies and minds, so we can deduce that they are local. The next question is: Are they temporary and changeable?
Of course they are. Compared to challenges we as a country have faced in the past and overcome, we have much reason to be optimistic.
Next Monday, June 6, will mark the 67th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy. The allied invasion was the culmination of years of planning, organizing and training. It was an enormous offensive effort on which much was riding. Had it failed, the war might have been lost. That night, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reached out to the American people through a radio address and asked them to join him in prayer.
Today, many of his words still resonate. "Success may not come with rushing speed," Roosevelt said, "but we shall return again and again. ... Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts."
He continued, "Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose."
Possibly the gift of the ocean is as a reminder that so many events in our lives are temporal, but that God is forever.
This week, remember D-Day, those who gave their lives for us to be free and who changed the lives of generations. We have great reason to have hope.