Optimism is a catchy little word that brings with it much by way of meaning. The Oxford dictionary defines optimism as a feeling that good things will happen and that something will be successful. As we move ever more deeply into this 21st century, it is a word not to be lost in the midst of so much that can give cause for its polar opposite, pessimism. In terms of our spirituality, we need to be a people of hope and optimism in our church, in our families and in our schools.
I am often disillusioned with our daily news headlines and the negative messages presented. It is a well-known fact that anguish, suffering and misery sells. The headlines often speak to the negative and adverse-be that war, violence, personal hardship, crime and the like. It is evidence of the fact that our daily diet is infused with a view of the world that is anything but optimistic.
I am a teacher and primary school principal. My office looks out onto one of our school playgrounds which sees young girls and boys playing and interacting during the morning and lunchtime breaks-skipping, dancing, singing, socialising and building friendships. It is a scene of much joy. I walk the corridors, classrooms and grounds of our school almost every day and see wonderful things happening. I see children learning, participating enthusiastically in sport, supporting each other, trying and failing but trying again and succeeding. This is a joy to behold. There was much joy too in Celtic Park on Friday 8th June when I joined our Year 7 pupils to attend the Fan the Flame Mass. Girls and boys from across the Diocese, who had received the sacrament of Confirmation earlier this year, gathered in large numbers to give thanks for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. These joy filled moments, by media standards are simply uninteresting and therefore wouldn’t sell. However, the daily pleasures of family life, the golden moments that we are privileged to share with our children at home and in school, the sporting contests of the weekend and the richness of community and church life and friendships, these are the important things in our lives. This is where we acknowledge, proclaim and celebrate all that is good in our world.
We need to be messengers of hope and optimism in a world which often asks us to think differently. We cannot deny that there is distress and famine, conflict and hardship, disadvantage and deprivation and as part of our mission in a faith filled community let us acknowledge that and respond to it. Each one of us is compelled to make a commitment and a sustained effort to address the adversity in the world-that is the calling of our spirituality and deeply embedded in our humanity. We may be tempted to feel powerless by virtue of the weight of the popular media messages. Instead, we need to share a spirit of optimism that will allow others to be strong, to be supported and see hope in their world.
We have a message of hope enshrined in a gospel that asks us to uphold the good and be co-creators of faith, justice and hope in our community and our world. We must pray that we can respond to this call – in good times and in hardship. As we continue to recover from the recent pandemic, we are perhaps more acutely aware that when adversity strikes that the spirit of hope, courage and a sense of optimism need to prevail.
Optimism-an important word that speaks to our spirituality and our desire for hope in our families, in our schools and in our world.
Patricia McMaster is principal of Saint Brigid’s Primary School/Bunscoil Naomh Bríd, Tirkane, Maghera.