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With the increasing downturn of the economy, conflict in the Middle East, the aftermath of storms and the expense of Christmas upon us, we can either Decline or Thrive.

The American Psychological Association, in the article, “Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Hardiness Helps People Turn Stressful Circumstances into Opportunities,” related a 12 year study done by Salvatore R. Maddi, Ph.D.:

“In 1981 Illinois Bell Telephone (IBT) downsized from 26,000 employees to just over half that many in one year. The remaining employees faced [several changes]. . . One manager reported having 10 different supervisors in one year. Dr. Maddi and his research team [observed over 400 employees]… on a yearly basis until 1987. Results shows that about two-thirds of the employees in the study suffered significant . . .declines as the result of the extreme stress . . .  including heart attacks, strokes, obesity, depression, substance abuse and poor performance reviews. However, the other one-third actually thrived during the upheaval despite experiencing the same amount of disruption and stressful events as their co-workers. These employees maintained their health, happiness and performance and felt renewed enthusiasm.”

Wally Amos, in his WATERMELON mnemonic, for W, advises, “Whatever you believe creates your reality. Believe that life is a positive experience and it will be.”

I grew up in a two-bedroom home with a family of eleven people. The rooms upstairs were for my parents, and four younger sisters. There was one finished room in the basement that I shared with two sisters. My brothers slept in what once was an old coal room (before we got an electric furnace, a truck would back up to the garage and feed coal through a small doorway into that room. The picture is similar to the opening that our coal went through. We found that when we were small, and mom wasn’t around, we could fit through it.) My brother’s bedroom was never finished and with a single pane window, 3 cement walls, and the 4th “wall” of hanging sheets, it became cold in the Idaho winter.

As a family, we spent our evenings crowded together around the dinner table, talking, helping, and laughing. Then we spilled into the small living room, unless it was our turn to do dishes (no dishwasher). Many evenings we popped popcorn and made fudge. I still think the two go together.

I didn’t really think about being poor. I had what I needed, and much more. I had my brothers and sisters. From the view of a child, the excitement of a kitchen filled with the smells of baking, a trip to grandmas, building snow forts in the front yard, and putting stuffed animals on our heads, with our robes up around the animal’s neck, then sneaking in to startle my brothers at night, were my reality.

When we see life from the perspective of a child—not focusing on the stress, but on the goodness—not on the increasing fuel bills and taxes, but on the creative ways to stretch our incomes— not on the expense of Christmas, but on the carols and lights—not on the storm, but on the warmth of family—then a joyful life becomes our reality.