I’ve always been a “glass half empty” kind of person.
It might be more like 75 percent empty. Come to think of it, it seems like it’s a pretty small glass to begin with. And it could be a dribble glass.
You get the idea. My brain is wired to see the negative, and I frequently rail against everything and everyone that is unfair in the world (which, you have to admit, is a big list). I’m not always the biggest fan of humans.
But sometimes, if you are paying attention, the world can surprise you.
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Recently one of my jobs required me to find volunteer opportunities for young adults with disabilities. My task was to find places for our twenty-something summer campers to volunteer for a couple of hours in order to contribute to the community and gain some real-world experience.
My co-workers and I brainstormed a list of nonprofits and businesses that might be appropriate. I called people on the phone, I e-mailed, I went to resource fairs and talked with any group I thought might be helpful. I asked if organizations had opportunities and if they knew of other groups that might have opportunities.
And for a few weeks I was immersed in another world. A better world. A world where I found the glass closer to half full.
I saw first-hand the enormous wealth of hard work and compassion we have in our community. I had the pleasure of talking to person after person who was dedicated to taking action in order to make our world a better place. I saw up-close the strands that weave our community together without most of us even knowing they are there.
I met the people who run community gardens and food banks, groups committed to helping feed individuals and families who are in need and farmers working to help their community have healthy, affordable food that is available to everyone.
I was exposed to people who work to give all kids and adults, regardless of abilities, an opportunity to explore and learn and play in our world. Recreation specialists. Volunteers. Teachers. Interpretive specialists. People who refuse to label a person and then dismiss them.
I found people and the businesses they work for who were excited about participating and offering our campers opportunities that would give them fun, challenging real-world experiences.
I learned just how many people there are in our community who work hard, behind the scenes, to improve our community. The number and variety of these people and the scale of the work that they do for our community was amazing to see. I found it difficult to be my usual cynical self in the face of all of these people who were working so hard and so lovingly to help make our community better.
I also realized that my natural cynicism has settled into a sort of lazy, curmudgeonly complaining.
The saying is that if you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem. After seeing so many people in our community working to be part of the solution, I started to feel badly about maybe being part of the problem.
Maybe it’s time to stop complaining and be part of the solution.
Paula Larson is a freelance writer and retired wildlife biologist. She is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.