Business Casual: The Optimist’s List

We all have our “worry lists” that encompass items great, small and in-between: things that matter to the universe and things that matter only to us. The big topics on my list include world peace, the economy, global warming, affordable healthcare and UGA football. The small ones have to do with running out of cat food and forgetting to put the garbage out on Tuesdays and Fridays.

But because I am cursed with being an optimist (and it is a curse as often as it is a blessing, since it can interfere with a realistic world-view) I also keep a list of things that make me hopeful. Sappy, you bet, but necessary for survival.

My optimist’s list is fairly random but it starts with a conviction that things can and often do change – for the better. Attitudes, customs and habits can be altered – sometimes with legal pressure, sometimes with information effectively disseminated.

Remember when seatbelts in automobiles were little more than annoying strips of fabric and metal that got caught in the car door? Now people fasten their seatbelts as naturally and readily as they turn their keys in the ignition.

And remember when parents thought it was perfectly acceptable to hold an infant in their arms in a car? Now young children routinely ride in safety-tested car seats – in the backseat.

There was a time when the phrase “designated driver” would have drawn blank looks; it is now a part of the common vocabulary because more people are utilizing such drivers and refraining from driving when they have been drinking.

Also on the list is the happy observation that practically everybody seems to be an environmentalist. No more dismissive “tree-hugger” labels for people who care about protecting the planet; we are increasingly green-conscious.

Everyone is getting on the green bandwagon – private citizens, politicians, small businesses, large corporations, governments, churches, schools. Who cares whether the motivation is altruistic or pragmatic or some combination of the two? If the right thing is getting done, that’s cause enough for celebration.

Whole industries, like north Georgia’s carpet manufacturers, are working to become better environmental stewards. It’s unusual to hear of a significant new building – school, office or warehouse – that is not being built to LEED-certification standards.

Individuals are paying attention. They are recycling, repurposing, rethinking their behavior. They are taking cloth totes to the grocery store to avoid using plastic bags. They are replacing old, inefficient toilets with new low-flow models. They are watching their water consumption.

My home county, DeKalb, has a very effective curbside recycling program that is as friendly to the homeowner as it is to the environment – and it is very popular.

More and more products are being marketed as green or earth-friendly. The skeptic in me – who occasionally gives the optimist a hard time – wonders whether all the “green” products actually are as advertised; but the optimist is glad to see the awareness, happy to see that the notion of green has become mainstream.

In less than a year, we’ve gone from having a President who had to be convinced that global warming was a real problem to one who has made environmental responsibility a personal and national priority.

In recent months, people have become more interested and more involved in matters that affect them and their well-being – healthcare, for instance. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the engagement is encouraging.

At some point I am hoping to be able to add “safe and courteous cell phone use” to my optimist’s list – but it’s not there yet. Still, there is increasing public pressure and a general awareness so that most people who talk on cell phones while driving at least realize they are behaving irresponsibly.

There’s also a personal part of my optimist’s list that is a roster of friends, colleagues and family members who have provided a rich and sustaining mixture of companionship, encouragement, casseroles, random acts of kindness and the occasional glass of wine that have combined to make a tough year more bearable.

Categories: Business Casual