Hope(ful/less) in the New Year

I envied his ability to face seemingly insurmountable odds with an infatigable spirit.

I had a late dinner tonight at a restaurant I frequent. It is an all-you-care-to-eat establishment, and it features a number of savory soups as well as an impressive selection on the salad bar. I have eaten there so many times over the past eight years that the staff knows me. There have only been a couple of managers at this restaurant, and often he or she will sit down and talk while I eat. It makes for a good neighborhood experience. I sometimes like to imagine it is similar to living in a New York neighborhood where everyone knows each other: grocers, mail carriers, police officers, restaurant employees.

Tonight my seatmate was a manager who recently returned after a two-year transfer. I like him. He is a bit loquacious, and his stories border on the fantastic, but his enthusiasm for life is infectious. I know very few hard facts. He was raised Seventh Day Adventist and still identifies as a Christian. He has an 11-year-old daughter from a previous marriage and is now currently married to a Brazilian woman—very beautiful; he showed me her picture—who is in the process of legally moving to the United States. They met on a Christian dating service, vacationed and married in England, and, as I noted, they are trying to live in the same country.

Anyway, the conversation was rollicking and pinballed from subject to subject, but a definite thread emerged—a couple of threads, actually: This man likes to make things—handicrafts and such—and he would like to market something that would bring in a healthy income. He talked of the potential goldmine in importing pure ice from one of the poles. It made sense to him; people pay big bucks for imported spring water. Imagine ice from the ends of the Earth! On his Blackberry he showed me his latest “invention.” It looked like a ceremonial staff topped with a lens. He had bought an inexpensive hand magnifier, mounted on a staff with leather thongs and bangles, and mounted colorful glass “stones” around the edge of the magnifier. I could imagine some staff-wielding mage-wannabe trooping around a meeting of the Society for Creative Anachronism or a Medieval Fair gathering envy like bitter medicinal herbs. The manager told me that $10 worth of creativity would be a bargain at $75.

As I chewed my salad, it became clear to me the biggest difference between us: He was ridiculously hopeful. Mind you, I am not a hopeless git yet, but my level of enthusiasm wanes next to this restaurant manager’s. As I walked to my car, rather than thinking this sunny man was goofy and deluded, I envied his ability to face seemingly insurmountable odds with an infatigable spirit.

I have a number of New Year resolutions, but one that I would like to see stick is to fight an old-age grumpiness that has crept into my life and replace it with ridiculous hopefulness.

Happy New Year.

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