December 31, 2010

Here's to new beginnings

Experience Optimism in review

It was inevitable- a post about the top stories on Experience Optimism for 2010. However, for me, measuring why they were top had to be more subjective than comments or click-throughs.  With 344 posts to choose from, I've decided to highlight 18 for various reasons.  I hope you like our year in review.

Innovative and noteworthy Optimist Club projects: 

  1. Caldwell, Idaho - Boxing Program helps keep youths out of trouble 
  2. Yuma, Arizona - From Arizona to Afghanistan with love
  3. Wausau, Wisconsin - Optimist Club's woodworking booth most popular attraction
  4. Chillicothe, Illinois - Chillicothe Optimist Club to host Red Carpet Event
  5. Arlington, Virginia - Optimist Club helps to save the Arlington Planetarium 
  6. Tucson, Arizona - Oktoberfest is a major fundraiser for Optimist Clubs in Tucson

What Optimist Clubs are all about:

  1. What do Optimist Clubs raise money for?
  2. Students set a fast pace for service
  3. Optimist Clubs show appreciation for children
  4. Volunteers rock the Boise Noon Optimist Club Football Program

Projects that collaborate with others:

  1. Food pantry challenge 
  2. Engaging our youth 
  3. A movement away from home
  4. Optimist International - John Hopkins Pediatric Oncology

Ideas to motivate you:

  1. The conversation starter
  2. In search of members and happiness
  3. What motivates people - Daniel Pink 
  4. What leads to success? - Richard St. John 

Thank you for reading our positive stories here on the Experience Optimism blog. It's fun and challenging bringing them to you. As always, when you see something good happening in your community, please send us a note. Tell us about good deeds, positive activities and upbeat stories that make you happy. 

December 30, 2010

Are volunteers lonely?

When I saw this video on Big Think, it made me think more about my post from yesterday, Are you a member or a volunteer? You see, I've always thought of volunteering as being a rather lonely sport as someone looks for a cause or group to support; searching for somewhere to fit in. Finding the right group, joining, belonging, and being accepted represents success.

According to John Cacioppo, Neuroscientist, University of Chicago, perhaps loneliness is a chosen pursuit. He says, "Since the latter half of the 20th century, the US has been moving towards greater individualism."

If we no longer need a group to build our self esteem, then we have to begin to imagine why we might need others in our lives. Some basic reasons that come to mind for me are collaboration and procreation. Please take a look at Mr. Cacioppo's video and share your thoughts. Why do we need others in our lives? Why do we think we can do it all alone when there are so many that can help? Do you think that online communities are leading to more sharing and collaboration? Are you more or less likely to join a physical or online  group of like-minded people?

December 29, 2010

Are you a member or a volunteer?

Members are the strength of any organization for they provide the inspiration, funding, and volunteer coordination for a variety of community service projects. However, there seems to be a trend towards the ubiquitous volunteer over the focused membership model. Have you ever stopped to analyze the difference?

  • Volunteers and members give their time to their causes for free. 
  • Volunteers and members give money to causes they support. 
  • Volunteers and members perform projects that enhance their communities. 
  • Volunteers and members enjoy satisfaction from knowing they have helped others or made a difference. 

Wow, they do sound the same. What is the difference?

To answer the question, I took a look at Google's new Ngram viewer to see how the two  words have been viewed over time in literature. Take a look at the chart comparing the two words from 1900 to 2008. The red line is Member. The blue line is Volunteer.  Click on the chart to enlarge.

It is very clear that 'member' meant something special to authors of modern literature with peaks around 1920, 1940 and 1970. During those times it was normal to seek acceptance and belonging was key to career  and social advancement.

While there is a decline in 'member' after 1980 and again in 2000, 'volunteer' has not kept up the pace. It appears that fewer people are belonging and volunteering.  Or perhaps, fewer authors are writing about either. 

No matter which word we use, no matter which scenario we choose, the trend is one we need to reverse. We need to write, talk and volunteer. As for me, I like to belong to a group that shares my desire to do good today and has plans to continue to do good tomorrow and beyond. I like being a member of a community who just so happens to volunteer my time, talent and treasure. 

Let's hear it for the membership model for members belong; and as a group, they strive for understanding and generate love and a sense of pride. They have-your-back when you collaborate to invest in a better tomorrow today. 

December 28, 2010

Students set a fast pace for service

A friend of mine who hails from Nebraska updates his Facebook status regularly, sometimes several times a day. A great majority of his posts are about his activities with Optimist Clubs. He is especially active with Junior Optimist Octagon International (JOOI) and it's always wonderful to hear about the positive programs in which our students are involved.

Over the past year, students in the JOOI Clubs he works with have:
  • Won a grant for "Don't Drive Intexticated" and led an awareness program against texting while driving. 
  • Visited a skilled nursing facility to play bingo with the residents for 108 consecutive months (9 years)
  • Participated in Jumpstart's Read for the Record/Read Aloud Nebraska
  • Helped craft a media campaign against underage drinking with the public health department
  • Collected a record 81 pints at the Holiday Blood Drive
  • Participated in Operation Christmas Tree for the 17th year providing trees to needy families
  • Hosted World Kindness Week at Norfolk Jr. High
  • Collected non-perishable items for the food pantry and clothing for the Salvation Army
  • Manned the concession stands for the Early Bird Tip-off Classic and other sporting events
  • Held an Improv Retreat
  • Participated in numerous Internet Safety programs
  • Participated in National Night Out
  • Hosted the JOOI of Reading at elementary schools
  • Hosted Souper Bowl of Caring
  • And so much more...
Some service clubs struggle to do a project a month, but the energy and creativity of students can keep us active sometimes on a weekly basis.  Finding an adult mentor and chaperon to keep up with their projects can be a daunting task and truly a labor of love.

Many thanks to my friend, Mark Clausson, Immediated Past Governor, for the great service he provides to the Optimist Clubs, JOOI Clubs, and especially the students in the Nebraska District - Optimist International. 

December 27, 2010

Optimist Club helps to save the Arlington Planetarium

The Planetarium in Arlington, Virginia was scheduled to be closed. It had a momentary reprieve when the School District took over funding the operational costs, but that was short-lived as it fell victim to the budget ax, losing more than 60% of the needed funding. Enter the Optimist Club.

When the Arlington Optimist Club's president-elect heard about the plight, he and his fellow members became champions of the cause. According to Brig Pari, they need to raise $402,000 by June 2011. There is no assurance of their success, raising money is always a challenge, but the good news is they have already raised $130,000.

The money will be used for more than operational costs. It will help the planetarium install new equipment to enhance the entertainment and educational value. To read more about the project and the Arlington Planetarium, please visit the website at

Please consider making a donation while you are there. The Optimist Club thanks you; and so do the children in Arlington, VA.

December 26, 2010

Waiting on the World to Change

I hope you enjoyed the day of celebration known as Christmas. No matter your faith, one of the greatest joys of the season is gathering with loved ones and sharing our activities from the past year. Of course not everyone gets to have that experience. Some are away from home serving their country while others find themselves away from family and close friends for other reasons.  For some, the warmth of the season is just out of their grasp.

Perhaps you know what that feeling is like. I think it's a whole lot like the video that I'm serving up for Music Sunday here at Experience Optimism. Sometimes we find ourselves feeling like John Mayer's "Waiting for the World to Change."

What do you do when it's time for change? How do you keep the faith?

December 25, 2010

Be joyful and kind

It's that time of year when we say 'Happy Holidays' to everyone we meet. It's a simple statement that I am certain means more to some than others. So this year, I send wishes to you that bring will hopefully bring joy and kindness to all.

Stay warm.  Help others stay warm as well. Donate a blanket, coat, socks or shoes to a homeless shelter. 
Keep your family and friends close. Do more than send a text message, email or Facebook update. If you can't be with them, call them. Now. 
Travel safely. There are a lot of people travelling to their holiday destination. Take your time; offer to drive others who may not otherwise get out.
Smile. Nothing helps holiday stress more than a genuine smile. Try it. 
Laugh and be merry. There really is something to the traditional "Merry Christmas" wish. Help someone else laugh as well. 
Be thankful.  Recognize what is good in your world. Oprah Winfrey said, "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never ever have enough."

I hope that you find peace, joy, love and contentment during this time of celebration and in the new year.

December 24, 2010

Optimist Clubs help children give to others

I've posted a few stories with pictures of Shop with a Cop programs on the Experience Optimism page on Facebook. Oddly,they weren't clicked through as frequently as other stories have been.

I thought Christmas was all about kids, and Optimist Clubs were all about making sure that everyone had the opportunity to celebrate?

Yes, I know there is a "reason for the season" and we shouldn't teach children to be materialistic, but if you aren't familiar, a Shop with a Cop program generally works like this:
  • The organizing group raises money to send children on a shopping trip.
  • On the day of the event, each child is told how much they have to spend.
  • An adult, often a police officer, is partnered with a child and goes along with them to be sure that they buy something for themselves.

That's right; most kids want to spend the money purchasing gifts for others. Now I think that is the spirit of Christmas.

Click here for pictures from the Calvert County Optimist Club Shop with a Cop Day.
Click here for pictures from the Timonium Optimist Club Shop with a Cop program.
Click here to see more about the Gresham Optimist Club Shop with a Cop program.

Photo courtesy of Jean Jensen, Optimist Club of Gresham, Oregon. 

December 23, 2010

Letters to the editor are testimony of an Optimist Club's service

Testimonials are an effective promotion for Optimist Clubs and often they come in the form of letters to the editor written and published in local newspapers. Following is a thank you letter for the Optimist Club of Barrie, Ontario from the president of the Candlelighters of Simcoe, Ontario.

Thanks to Optimists for Candlelighters Simcoe party
BARRIE - Optimist Club of Barrie volunteers have touched the lives of families of children with cancer for the last eight years by providing a spectacular Christmas party for the Candlelighters Simcoe Parents of Children with Cancer organization.
Despite a winter storm, 130 parents, children and volunteers participated in an amazing afternoon of activities including crafts, music, balloon creations, food and gifts from Santa who made the trek through snow and ice. We would like to make special mention and thanks to all the Optimist Club volunteers, Adrian Wood the balloon man, Peggy and Ted from Running Shoes musical entertainment and to some very special Candlelighters Simcoe volunteers who did an amazing job on the Christmas crafts. 
It is always heartwarming to see new families arrive somewhat uncertain about the event but by the end of the afternoon be smiling, making new friends and enjoying themselves immensely. We appreciate these caring and compassionate volunteers who have brought a shining light to families of children with cancer at a difficult time in their lives. 
Barbara Johnson, President, Candlelighters Simcoe Parents of Children with Cancer    

Candlelighters, now known as The American Childhood Cancer Foundation, were formed forty years ago by parents of children affected by cancer. Their goal is to "light the way" and provide support, information, advocacy and childhood cancer research. Optimist Clubs often choose to partner with the local Candlelighters group as their Optimist International Childhood Cancer Campaign recipient. 

December 22, 2010

I support the (fill in the blank) Optimist Club

Our Optimist Clubs frequently say they need more promotion and wish for celebrity spokespersons. One of the challenges of a celebrity spokesperson would be finding the one person who speaks to all populations.

Earlier this year a new Optimist Club was built in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Florida. Named for its community, you might imagine that the members of the Little Haiti Optimist Club and the children that benefit from their service are a different demographic than an Optimist Club in Utah, Oregon, or Idaho. Not only do they live in a different part of the country, in differently styled or appointed neighborhoods, they are significantly younger than the average Optimist Club member. So knowing  who could speak to their community best, they created their own Celebrity Support video.

Please take a look at a Celebrity Support video for the Little Haiti Optimist Club.

Don't know the celebrities? That's okay, it wasn't meant for your community. But it is a great, easy idea that you can do for your Optimist Club.

Get out your Flip Video and at your next Chamber of Commerce meeting ask your local celebrities to support your Optimist Club. It's local, relevant to your demographic, plus it really is free and easy promotion. Please be sure to send me your link or your video once it is published. Let's show our support for our Local Optimist Club.

December 20, 2010

No age barriers for Optimist Club Christmas baskets

Christmas baskets, loaded with food and presents, are a regular project for Optimist Clubs. Members of the Optimist Club of Pasco-Tri-Cities in Richland, Washington made a "Supermarket Sweep" to fulfill their requests.  As you will see in the slideshow, members have fun together as they serve their community.

Most clubs ask for donations from the community. That's what the Junior Optimist Club at Hartland High School in Hartland Township, MI did. They collected 4,000 pounds of food and supplies with help from their friends in the school district.

Their school advisor, Nicole Conley, commented on the student' generosity. She said, "I am always awestruck how much teenagers want to give. Many people believe them to be selfish creatures, and some are, but I generally believe they lack the knowledge of how to get involved.

Optimist Club members will agree with Ms. Conley's statement. That's why they spend time with children, providing projects for them to do and as they get older, helping them to carry out projects on their own. A caring community begins with caring, involved adults. We like to call them Optimist Club members.
Read all about the Junior Optimist (JOOI) project here.

Singing for optimism

The Optimist Club of Calgary, Alberta, Canada celebrates Christmas in their community with the Optimist Festive Showcase Concert - a magical pageant of talent and joy at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.  Enjoy!

December 19, 2010

All I want for Christmas

Most everything is festive during the holiday season. It is only right that our music should be happy and lighthearted as well. As I was shopping this week, I discovered it was more fun when the tempo was upbeat and this song especially caught my fancy. Please enjoy Mariah Carey in "All I want for Christmas is you" for Music Sunday at Experience Optimism. Dancing is encouraged.

December 18, 2010

Looking for happy stories

We've archived over five hundred community service projects here at Experience Optimism. Most have been performed by Optimist Clubs. But as we near the end of 2010, I think it is time to reach out to more service clubs, more groups and more individuals. Can you help make this blog more dynamic, interactive and far-reaching? Can you - will you - share your stories with us?

We are looking for positive, upbeat stories about ordinary individuals who make a difference. "Make a difference" is a very open term, but certainly you can tell us about activities that you see or do that make you happy:
Experience Optimism is here to support and promote good things done by real people in our very real communities. We believe that hearing about positive, proactive stories will make you happy and inspire others to do something good too. Get active and involved in your community and of course - please follow us on Twitter, talk with us on Facebook, and send us your stories.  Thank you.

December 17, 2010

Holiday memories are created throughout the year

Granite City Steel, Granite City, IL
I am originally from the Midwest - Granite City, Illinois to be exact. Granite City was once an industrial town with steel mills that bolstered the standard of living. Today it is in transition and sadly, it has been in this transition for nearly twenty years.

Nonetheless, Granite City is where I grew up, started my first business, and first joined an Optimist Club. It holds childhood memories, coming of age exploits, failures and successes, and the expectation that it is right to give back to our communities.

When I left Granite City twelve years ago, I was in search of a new career, new adventures and a new me. I didn't look back. However, my experiences with Optimist Clubs continue to remind me of the way things were and especially during the holiday season, those memories can be both happy and sad. That's the beauty and drawback of nostalgia.

Santa's House, Belleville, IL
What got me started on this line of thinking today was a Google alert from the Downtown Belleville Optimist Club. As I scanned this list of activities in the Belleville community looking for the Optimist Club entry, I recognized so many more places and references. I know just what the Highland Fish Fry looks like, and I've been to many benefit dinners like the one that tops the list for worker laid-off from work. I've visited the festivals, seen most of the town squares, and of course, participated in the Belleville Noon Optimist Club Christmas events.

It is frightening, yet comforting, to wrap so many experiences into a small, random list. But missing from this list are the family and friends that come together on any given day to make our lives complete.

Christmas and holiday memories are important. Take time to make them with your children and loved ones so they may look back on them with fondness.  That is what makes a family.

Take time throughout the year to offer your service to others. Volunteer, participate and be involved. That is what makes a community.

And don't forget to live every day to the fullest, with gratitude, respect and love for all. That is what makes a life.

Photo credits:;

December 16, 2010

Seth Godin says

Seth Godin spoke to the Chronicle of Philanthropy and they posted this interview on their blog yesterday. The take-away is that Seth believes that charities should fail, and fail often. He explains that failure will lead to creativity and innovation.  He also believes that once charities stop modeling themselves like the corporate world, they will be able to better pursue their mission.

I agree with him and I've written about why Optimist Clubs are not businesses on this blog before. Our organizations must run in a business-like manner to be fiscally responsible; however, they must always remember there purpose isn't to make money for their coffers. Their goal should be to mobilize money for the benefit of the community.

What do you think? Are Seth and I headed in the right direction? Please share your thoughts.

December 15, 2010

Braving the cold and ice for the kids

They survive cold weather, rain, sleet and snow and of course they celebrate the rare warm, sunny day in December. I'm not speaking of the US Postal Service, but rather the Optimist Club - any Optimist Club - that sells Christmas trees as their major fundraiser.

In a suburb of St. Louis, where the Brentwood Optimist Club has been selling Christmas trees since 1956, they say that this year's cold and ice is rare, but not unheard of. Regardless of the conditions, they plan to keep the lot open because their programs for children depend on their successful fundraising efforts.

Hear all about it from Rock Schmidt, an Optimist Club member since 1975 with an interview from KSDK.

Click on the link to watch the video:

Video changed to a link on December 18. 

December 14, 2010

What do Optimist Clubs raise money for?

The Optimist Club of North Pensacola, Florida is celebrating their 48th anniversary this year.  During the annual club officer installation they recognized the groups and organizations who have benefited from their fundraising efforts. This year alone more than $30,000 was given to:

  • Take Stock in Children  
  • The Leaning Post Ranch  
  • Just Say No to Drugs program at five elementary schools  
  • Camp Happy Sands  
  • Westgate Center  
  • West Florida High School Football and Girls Softball  
  • Gull Point Dancers  
  • Boy Scouts of America (Challenged) Troop 409  
  • Bill Bond Boys Baseball  Girls Softball  
  • Workman Middle School Cross Country  
  • Wings of Hope (Children's Cancer)  
  • Federal Naturalization Ceremony 
  • Spencer Bibs School Reading Program
The North Pensacola Optimist Club gets involved hands-on with programs as well by coordinating the Optimist International Essay and Oratorical Contests and Bicycle Safety Programs. 

It's always good to see a list of Optimist Club beneficiaries. Yes, Optimist Clubs touch all areas of our lives.

December 13, 2010

What we do

Wordle: Experience OptimismI get an occasional question about what we really do here at Experience Optimism. Well, it is very simple. We promote projects that make your community a better place to live and we share our optimistic attitude with others so they may find joy, share kindness and experience the optimism that surrounds them every day.

I thought this Wordle of our December posts thus far summed up our site rather nicely. Please pass on our link so your friends can Experience Optimism too. Thank you

December 12, 2010

Sing Hallelujah!

In a Random Act of Culture, the Opera Company of Philadelphia descended upon Macy's to delight the shoppers and employees with Handel's Messiah, the Hallelujah Chorus. They were out and about on October 30, singing in the holiday season early.

It's Music Sunday here at Experience Optimism and with less than two weeks to go before Christmas Day, I think right now is a great time to sing along. Sing loud; it will make you happy.

December 11, 2010

Junior Optimists collect Toys for Tots

Junior Optimist Clubs are good at finding new service projects to do and they manage to stay busy throughout the year. Christmastime is no different.

One of the projects that came across my desk this week is taking place today, December 11, in Prior Lake, Minnesota. The Prior Lake High School's Junior Optimist Club is collecting Toys for Tots at Prior Lake Marketplace from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. They ask that the toys be unwrapped and they ask for toys appropriate for all ages.

The Junior Optimist Club started six years ago. They have been collecting toys for four years. To date, members have collected more than 5,000 gifts. To find out more about the project or the Prior Lake Junior Optimist Club, please call Amy Raetz at 952.447.1137.

December 10, 2010

A visit from Signing Santa

According to a press release, Santa Claus knows many languages including American Sign Language - ASL. That's right, Signing Santa made his annual appearance on Wednesday at the Barton Creek Mall in Austin, Texas.  He was joined by students from the Texas School of the Deaf.

Signing Santa was available for pictures and to check the wish lists of deaf and hard of hearing students. He then relayed those wished directly to the big guy at the North Pole.

The students in turn provided entertainment with interpreted Christmas Carols.

The activity is sponsored annually by the Northwest Texas District Optimist Clubs and Junior Optimists. The Optimist Club members serve as elves, help with pictures and make sure there is present for every student under the tree.

December 9, 2010

Santa Saturday

Optimist Clubs will be out in full force this Saturday performing holiday projects in their community. The River East Optimist Club in Winnipeg, Manitoba is no exception. This year they will have three events taking place to help Santa reach more kids.

Beginning at 11:00 a.m. on December 11 is the Annual Breakfast with Santa. It is free for children 12 and under.  Kids get free breakfast, small gifts and admission to the kiddie flea market.

Following breakfast, the Kiddie Flea Market begins. Everything is priced under $1 offering children the ability to purchase gifts for their families.

There is also a Skate with Santa as the shoppers take some time out for some exercise and fun.

According to Optimist Club member Victoria Young, program founder and coordinator, the holiday tradition began in 1998 and has been growing ever since. "It's a way for families to do something at Christmas time that doesn't cost bundles of money," she explained.

All activities take place at the East Elmwood Community Centre, 927 Beach Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R2L1E3. Children under 12 are free. Adults and those over 12 will pay a small admission fee of $2 which enters them into a $100 gift certificate drawing.

December 8, 2010

Caroling for canned goods

In Plainfield, Indiana, the Junior Optimist Club at Plainfield Community Middle School will take part in an annual tradition: Christmas Caroling in the Community. They have a special twist on their event. In addition to sharing holiday cheer and fun, they collect canned goods that are given away by counselors at the Middle School.

The event will take place throughout Plainfield neighborhoods on December 9, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Flyers are being distributed several days before to alert residents to the purpose of the carolers and other organizations and groups have been asked to join the 50 Junior Optimist Club members in the fun.

Thanks to Junior Optimist Club sponsor Joan Effinger for the story.

What is your favorite Christmas project? Please tell us about it here. 

December 7, 2010

Optimist Club recognizes unsung heroes in Polk County, FL schools

One hundred and forty unsung heroes were praised by the Winter Haven Optimist Club, Winter Haven, Florida at the annual Youth Appreciation Luncheon. This is the 24th consecutive year that the club has recognized students, teachers and administrators from the 70 schools in Polk County.

Each school was asked to send two students to the event who have demonstrated good conduct, positive attitude, school spirit, and a strong desire to do their best at all times. In addition to lunch and praise from the Optimist Club and a host of guest speakers, each student received a goody bag filled with educational items. Four teachers were also recognized as being unsung heroes during the afternoon event.

Over the years, more than 3,800 students have been honored by the Winter Haven Optimist Club during Youth Appreciation activities.  Yes, Winter Haven Optimists are friends of youth.

December 6, 2010

Relationships are the key to Optimist Club growth

For months, maybe years, I have been espousing the need for true engagement between Optimist International leaders and Optimist Club members.  For me, there seems to be a disconnect between what the clubs want and what the international office is willing or able to provide. The result: Optimist Clubs are entrepreneurial; they do what is needed in their club and community at any given time within their own framework and knowledge-base.

Is this a good or bad thing? Well, as the saying goes that I so dislike, it is what it is. It is neither good or bad for the successful Optimist Club that is able to serve their community year-after-year. But can the same be said for the club who is burnt out and not so successful? Are they at risk for terminating their service in their community?

Or how does that affect the organization known as Optimist International? What is their investment in a locally-driven project? What is their ownership? What is their involvement or what should it be? 

This is the discussion that I believe needs to be had between the organization and its internal customers. Optimist Clubs and their members pay to be a part of Optimist International; therefore, they need to discuss: 
  • What do they receive for that payment? 
    • Is the perceived value the same for all communities? If not, why not? 
  • What, if anything, is missing from the menu of services? 
    • If there is something missing, how would the missing ingredient be used to advance the reach of Optimist Clubs in your community and the world? 
I believe there is a lot of power in asking the right questions, but I also believe there is power in answering them. According to recent global study, one in three executives say they are often unable to find the right people to provide them information. One can only wonder how the employees and customers must feel if that is the case. 

So with 3,000 Optimist Clubs, representing 90,000 Optimist Club members, research would suggest that we need to ask everyone. We also need to apply appropriate filters to assess the relevancy of the answers received. We need to digest and report those answers, generate new questions and establish an ongoing dialog with those who are interested in participating using established social media tools. We need for the Optimist International organization to be approachable and transparent. 

An observant reader might ask, who is "we?" You guessed it; "we" is you and me. We make up the Optimist Clubs that are Optimist International; not only the staff and leaders. We need to be involved. 

Optimist Club growth does not happen because of advertising, surveys or blog posts. It happen because people are engaged with one another. Never forget, relationships matter.  What we say to each other makes a difference. What we don't say, even more. 

December 5, 2010

Only in America

President Obama made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan this week to visit the troops. I watched the speech via live streaming from the feed.  You can watch it too by clicking on the link.

However, what moved me the most not the speech, but rather the choice of songs that played following the President's address. It began with Only in America by Brooks and Dunn, a song that tells us to dream big for there are many ways our lives may take us, but if we follow our dreams anything is possible.  Please enjoy Only in America, this week's installment of Music Sunday at Experience Optimism.

December 4, 2010

Seeing and feeling your way to change

Like any organization, Optimist International is made up of volunteers who are passionate about their cause. That passion drives leaders to ask their followers to adopt new ways of thinking and make progress within their terms of office; often one year at a time. In order to accomplish their mission, these leaders spend a lot of time teaching how-to courses like how to write a budget, how to lead a meeting and how to recruit new members. Sometimes it seems like there is a lot of teaching going on and not a lot doing, seeing or feeling what the real activity is like.

When I saw this video on Fast Company, I thought, aha here is the answer. Here is what motivates people to want to change.  Please take a look and consider how you might add this approach to your recruitment and leadership style. Don't be afraid to discuss your ideas below.

December 3, 2010

Selling Christmas trees in Miami

Optimist Clubs sell a great number of Christmas trees every year, even in Miami. I saw this picture and I wondered, where do Christmas trees come from in the southernmost United States?

According to the Optimist Club of Miami Springs, Florida, their shipment came from Boone, North Carolina.  The tree of choice is the Frazier Fir and they sell for anywhere in between $25 and $100.

Like most Optimist Clubs, they plan to sell out of their 1,000 trees in 2 weeks. Happy selling!

See a related article in the River Cities Gazette. 

December 2, 2010

Optimist Clubs show appreciation for children

Giving back
Random acts of kindness
Making others happy 

These are the reasons most often given for recognizing students during Optimist Club Youth Appreciation activities. Being a good student or athlete might be on some of the resumes, but that's not what is important when it comes to being a good citizen. Optimist Clubs look for students who embody the purposes of Optimist International:

  • To develop optimism as a philosophy of life utilizing the tenets of the Optimist Creed
  • To promote an active interest in good government and civic affairs
  • To inspire respect for the law
  • To promote patriotism and work for international accord and friendship among all people
  • To aid and encourage the development of youth, in the belief that the giving of one's self in service to others will advance the well-being of humankind, community life and the world
Optimist Clubs like to honor students for being good people, especially those who are willing to contribute to society or provide aid and comfort to others even without recognition. And I think they do a great job too. Please take a look at these slideshows and share your thoughts with us. 

December 1, 2010

Be aware, be kind

Awareness. So much of our lives is spent becoming aware, or helping others be aware of something. Something important.

Today is AIDS World Awareness Day. Celebrities on Twitter are going silent to raise awareness and money for AIDS research. Governments around the world are making profound statements to encourage understanding and awareness and to promise research will continue to fight the dreaded disease. It's all good.

But Google is raising awareness of something else. Did you know that December 1 is the anniversary of the modern Civil Rights Movement in the United States? Fifty-five years ago Rosa Parks, a 'colored' 42-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her seat to a fellow white passenger on bus #2857.

She didn't plan to be arrested. She didn't plan to start a movement. She was tired after a long day at work and felt it was her right to sit and if it took an overt action to make the point and speak out against oppression, it was time.

Perhaps that is why we have so many days for awareness. The time is always right to do the right thing and we don't know what the right thing is until we know the issues and concerns, and can understand and empathize with the plight of others.

Be aware. Be kind. As Plato said, "Everyone is fighting a hard battle."


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