The Difference Between the Curmudgeons and the Serene

Have you ever noticed how many unhappy people there are in this world of ours? Almost every time I venture out I come in contact with them. You see them in the stores, the market, on the roads ~ everywhere. They are the ones who don't seem to know how to look pleasant. Their faces are scrunched up in ugly frowns, they sigh and grumble a lot. They're rude to store clerks and restaurant servers. They honk their horns if traffic doesn't move fast enough to suit them. They let the door slam in your face as you enter a store. They yell at their children and lose their tempers if they are made to wait.

They seem to be chronically angry. Nothing seems to please them. What's wrong with them?

Maybe their lives haven't turned out the way they had planned ~ maybe the stress of everyday living is too much for them ~ maybe they hold bitterness and resentment inside until it becomes visible for all to see. And ~ maybe a few of them are just having a bad day.

When you meet these kinds of people your first inclination is to stay as far away from them as possible. That's probably the safest thing to do! ; ) But sometimes, if you make an effort to talk with them, maybe just smile and say hello, you find their countenance changes ~ they almost seem surprised that anyone would make the effort to connect with them. Their faces soften and they smile back at you. At times just saying "hi" to one of these people can start a pleasant conversation.

One day at the grocery store I happened to get a cashier who really looked surly! I asked her if she was having a bad day. That started a ten minute conversation in which she told me she had been working 16 straight days without a break; that she was getting married in a month and had a million things left to do for the wedding. As she talked she became more animated and began to smile. As I left, I noticed she greeted the customer in line behind me in a pleasant, happy voice.

Maybe the fact that someone took the time to speak with her and was willing to listen to her story was enough to make her feel a little better. Sometimes we all feel isolated from our fellow man. We focus so intently on what's wrong with our lives, with our world, that we fail to see the goodness around us. All of our negative thinking makes us miserable and that's the face we present to others. We may not even be aware of what we're doing or how we appear. When that happens all it may take to bring us out of our self-imposed misery is a kind word from someone, even a stranger.

We're told that, in large part, we create our own unhappiness. I believe that's true. Whether we want to believe it or not, our attitudes play a significant role in how happy or unhappy we are. There are people who can take things in stride that would bring others to their knees. What's the difference between the two? Maybe it's as simple as the way people react to the things that happen in their lives. Some people look at problems as challenges, others look at them as roadblocks. The first group finds ways to resolve issues, the second group develops a defeatist attitude and doesn't even try.

When we come up against an obstacle we have a choice. We can whine about how unfair it is or we can do something to remove it. It's our decision. If we choose to do nothing, nothing will be accomplished and we'll fail to progress beyond that point. If we continually choose to do nothing we end up with a life of frustration and broken dreams. Our self esteem plummets and we see ourselves as losers. Or, we may feel victimized and become resentful and bitter. Either way we're going to miss out on much of the goodness life has to offer.

We have the power to literally change our lives. All we have to do is change our attitudes toward life. Making the changes isn't always easy but it can be done. I'm living proof of that. I used to be very negative, always focusing on the bad rather than the good. I was the proverbial "glass half empty" type of person. That kind of attitude is self-perpetuating unless you make a decision to change it and start concentrating on the good things that happen.

No life is without its bumps and sometimes it seems like you're driving over boulders, but that's okay. Peter Marshall wrote, "When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure." We have to accept those bumps and feel confident that they will help us grow stronger.

We all have blessings to be grateful for ~ it's those we must rely on to support us when we hit a rough patch on our journey. It's up to us to make the best of bad situations and develop the ability to see life as an endless stream of wonderful possibilities. To react in any other way drastically limits our capacity for joy and happiness.

That being said, it's up to all of us to do what we can to make it easier for others to see the positive side of life. Not only does it help them, it makes us feel better too. So next time you see someone who looks like a thundercloud, summon up your courage, stand tall and make a simple human connection.

You can make a difference.

Linda Offenheiser is an online copywriter and offline wife, mother and grandmother. She loves to share some of the life lessons she's learned along the way. You can read more at">Northern Reflections. For a simple way to make a difference in another's life visit">Send Out Cards. This automated greeting card system makes staying in touch easy and inexpensive.