Stories are powerful. They are universal and cross the boundaries of language, culture, and age. They define who we are and portray the world in vivid, narrative terms. They build emotional connections. I think we learn best and make decisions that result in change from hearing stories. We would all do well to master the art of storytelling. After all, in our afterschool programs, we are surrounded by a rich and ready source of content.
Recently, my pastor began his sermon with a story about the power of being positive in any situation! I’ll share it here…
A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. Opposite in every way, one was an eternal optimist, the other a doom and gloom pessimist.
Just to see what would happen on the twins' birthday, their father loaded the pessimist's room with every imaginable toy and game. The optimist's room he loaded with horse manure.
That night the father passed by the pessimist's room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly.
"Why are you crying?" the father asked.
"Because my friends will be jealous, I'll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff, I'll constantly need batteries, and my toys will eventually get broken." answered the pessimist twin.
Passing the optimist twin's room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of manure. "What are you so happy about?" he asked.
To which his optimist twin replied, "There's got to be a pony in here somewhere!"
We have both optimists and pessimists in our profession. But I believe we are a majority of optimists. My belief is based on conversations with and observations of numerous professionals performing their work in a positive manner. Afterschool professionals maintain an attitude of positive expectations, for themselves and others.
Yet, there are some that would argue that optimists are simple Pollyannas looking at the world through rose colored glasses and living in a fantasy. No doubt, each of us, from time to time, succumbs to negative thoughts. We worry about all the things that could go wrong. Some suggest that thinking the worst is a sound strategy for coping in an erratic world.
There is probably a place for both optimism and pessimism. But for my afterschool professional friends, who likely identify with the optimist twin in the story, being optimistic supports the pursuit of goals in a positive way, leading toward bigger and better dreams.
We each get to choose what we wear each day. We are also free to select an attitude to take to work. There may be times when pessimism serves us well, but to cope in our complex and unpredictable world, I choose to hunt for the pony!
Paul G. Young, Ph.D.
President & CEO
National AfterSchool Association