Local Lemons into Lemonade

It’s one thing to pay lip service to the warm-fuzzy aphorism “When the world gives you lemons, make lemonade”; it’s quite another to put this sentiment into action, but that’s what our local library did last month. Here’s what happened–and what I took away from it:

The Lemons

Last month, someone smashed eight windows in our local public library. I happened to go to the library later that day and saw the broken windows as well as glass all over the sidewalk, which made it dangerous to walk into the library. There was also glass inside the library, forcing them to close off several aisles–including my favorite nonfiction area with all the positive psychology books, which is what I’d gone to the library hoping to check out!

Later that day, the library staff put up some plywood, which was an eyesore, but at least it protected the library from the cold and rain. A few weeks later, they closed the library for a day and replaced the windows.

Crimes like this almost never happen in our quiet little town, which is populated mainly by beach-loving retirees, so I was shocked, saddened, and  perplexed by the vandalism–especially when I learned that it  wasn’t the work of a teenage troublemaker but an adult. Although I consider myself a fairly creative person, I simply couldn’t imagine why anyone would turn their destructive wrath against–of all places–the public library.

(I later learned that the vandal was a disgruntled patron who’d been banned from the library for inappropriate behavior, so they broke the windows as revenge–thereby proving that the library had been correct in their judgment.)

Anyway, on to the positive side of the story:

The Lemonade

While waiting for the windows to be repaired, the community wanted to cover the broken windows not just with plywood but also with something uplifting. So the library set up a selection of pens, paints, crayons, and other markers next to eight large panels (the size of the windows), each with a question for people to respond to, such as:

  • What makes you laugh?
  • What is your favorite book, character, or author?
  • What do you love about where you live?
  • What do you want to share with the world?

Community members of all ages soon filled these panels with uplifting pictures and words. For instance, here are a few responses to the last question:

  • Hope
  • Love
  • Animals are awesome!
  • Don’t judge somebody just because they’re small.
  • I’m already sharing my amazing kids who contribute so much to their community.
  • That wonderful feeling of peace when the first thought of the day is “Thank you.”
  • Purple is the best color ever!

The panels stayed up for several weeks–filling with more and more positive pictures and uplifting artwork–until the new windows were installed.

The Takeaway

It may sound trite, but this experience really did remind me that even an act of senseless destruction can lead to something extremely positive. I know that, unfortunately, there will always be idiots–whether it’s a small group of hate-filled extremists or a single deranged individual carrying out a personal vendetta. And yes, they can cause damage. They can create a dangerous environment. And they can even cause a temporary shut-down of positive services (such as a library providing free books, art, and education).

But in the end, positivity wins. Hope wins. Goodness wins. Laughter and joy and learning and growth and art and creativity win. Love wins.

In this case (and many other cases), the spirit of positivity didn’t just balance out the destruction–it overwhelmed it! One act of destruction led to hundreds of positive messages seen by thousands of people. And this is the spirit that’s going to live on–long after the windows are replaced and the messages are moved. This is what prevails. This is what lasts. And, ultimately, this is what matters.

P.S. If you’d like to share a positive message with the world, I hope you’ll join us in our upcoming collaborative book, 365 Soulful Messages: The Right Guidance at the Right Time. (Please click here to learn more.)

This Time Next Year

Happy New Year!

I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating the end of 2018 and the start of 2019!

Even though 2019 has just arrived, I’m already thinking about 2020…and it’s all Cat Deeley’s fault!

You see, last year I watched her show, This Time Next Year, in which people declared their intentions for what they wanted to accomplish over the course of the year…and immediately revealed whether or not they reached these goals.

In the show’s first segment, Cat interviewed them about their current life and what they’d like to be different in a year. Then the resolution-makers walked backstage and, mere […] Continue Reading…

What Would You Do If You Knew You WOULD Fail?

If you read this post’s title quickly, you might think it asked that common question: “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” And yes, in spite of being a cliché, this would have been a good question to ask. Like its spin-offs (e.g., “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” or “…if money were no object?”), it removes obstacles such as doubt, insecurity, or external limitations.

So, what would you do if success were guaranteed? Write a book? Start a business? Run for office? Pursue a career in art, music, dancing, or some other passion? […] Continue Reading…

The Two Best (and Worst) Magic Words

The two most powerful magic words I know aren’t open sesame, presto chango, or even por favor. They’re two words that have the power to open your heart and mind to limitless possibilities and innovations: what if.

Just like Ali Baba used open sesame to reveal treasure by opening what had appeared to be solid rock, what if has the power to crack open seemingly impassable (or impossible) obstacles, revealing the treasure within them.

And just like magicians might say presto chango to change one thing into another, what if can transform a roadblock into an opportunity.

For instance, if you encounter a roadblock in your business, you […] Continue Reading…

I Just Did Something Totally Stupid

I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent guy, but today I did something that was just plain stupid. It didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t a good thing to do. And my timing was absolutely terrible.

In retrospect, I can see that it was stupid. What makes it even worse, though, is that I realized that it was stupid before I started doing it — and even while I was doing it — yet I kept on doing it anyway.

Just to set the scene: this is one of the busiest times of the year for me. I’m launching two […] Continue Reading…

Idle Time Is the Angels’ Playground

I just read the words “Idle time is the devil’s workshop” for about the thousandth time, but it just now struck me how cynical, fear-based, and diametrically opposed to my own worldview this proverb is. Maybe it’s because I recently took almost a week off — five days filled (or not filled) with lots of idle time…and no sign of the devil!
Those days off were wonderful. My wife and I relaxed, took afternoon naps, went to the beach, explored a nearby town we’d never visited, played tennis (for the first time in about 16 years!), went on a real date, ate yummy […] Continue Reading…

5 Life Lessons from Bird by Bird

As part of the Your Soulful Book writing program, I recently re-read Anne Lamott’s modern classic, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

The first time I read this book — over a decade ago — I was primarily focused on learning to write better. This time around, however, I was struck by the subtitle’s truth: so many of these “instructions” really do apply equally to life beyond the page.

Of the book’s many profound life lessons, here are five of my favorites:

“It is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality. Reality is unforgivingly complex.”

I’m not sure […] Continue Reading…

No Pain, No Pain

Sometimes we learn from people who model what we want. Other times, we learn from those who model what we don’t want!

In my previous post, I discussed someone who falls into the latter category: a guest on the TV show This Time Next Year who justified her inability to find love by claiming that “Men don’t want to commit” (Once again, using myself as counter-exhibit A, I’ll borrow Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers’ one-word catchphrase: Really!?!) This time, I’m using another counter-example from the same show (which really is a great, inspiring show 99% of the time — I promise!) to address one of the most pernicious attitudes out […] Continue Reading…

1 DO + 1 DON’T of Romantic Relationships

If you’re looking for love or would like to improve the romantic relationship you’re already in, Valentine’s Day can be the best time of year…or the worst! It seems like everyone is talking (and frequently giving advice) about love and romance. And while much of this is wonderful — a celebration of love — a lot of it is negative, self-defeating, and untrue (or at least not necessarily true).

Everyone’s experience of love (and everything else) is different, so I’d never want to dismiss or downplay what someone else has been through. But over the last 16 years of being in […] Continue Reading…

A Timeless Message of Hope

I wasn’t planning on writing a timely post for Martin Luther King day this year, but I saw something yesterday that inspired me to do so: I watched David Letterman’s recent interview with Barack Obama, and when the far-ranging conversation turned to civil rights, Letterman recalled walking with John Lewis across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, 50 years after the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965.

As you may already know, during the first march (a legal, nonviolent protest against discriminatory voting regulations), state troopers attacked the unarmed marchers with nightsticks and tear gas, and even beat Amelia Boynton (one of […] Continue Reading…