A very dear friend of mine died recently, and at her funeral the messages and poems from some of the many who came summed up her approach to life: full of positivity and good grace. She was generous and kind, and would sometimes give presents, and always cake, to those who came to see her. A few years ago, after a bad fall, she was asked how she was: “I’m fine,” she replied, despite not being able to walk and being covered in bruises. She was always seeking out new things to learn about, and always interested in new people she met. She spoke five languages, had lived in Ukraine, Poland, Belgium and England at different periods in her life, and had endured war, the loss of members of her family and deprivation, yet always counted herself lucky. Her husband recalled a time early in their marriage when they had been out fruit-picking and a song came on the radio; they stopped, and danced around the car. This year she would have celebrated her 97th birthday.
I read an article in the education press at around the same time, just as we were breaking up for the holidays, and this quote in particular struck a chord with me:
Pupils need to be able to accept that things can’t always be perfect – a successful and good life is led by people who can take responsibility for trying to make things generally better, rather than by endlessly voicing discontent about the things they don’t much like.
Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen wrote a song called ‘Accentuate the Positive’ around the time that my friend first met her husband in Brussels, and its upbeat message always makes me smile:
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Therein lies a challenge for us all.