Sunny in Seattle
Looking for the positive
Meet Charles, the eternal pessimist who always saw the glass as half empty. Five years at the same company, yet never a merit raise above two percent. In Seattle, where he lived, that increment had an effect. The company had emailed, promising to notify employees of their merit raises in two weeks.
With bated breath, Charles counted down the days. But his negative mindset had him convinced that disappointment awaited him. On that fateful Monday, the two-week mark, Charles couldn’t help but wonder if his pessimism had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Would he be wrong, or would his cynicism be justified once again?
“I hate Mondays,” grumbled Charles as he stepped out of the elevator, trudging into the office.
After the pandemic, Mondays and another workday were his in-person schedule. He chose Mondays to rip the bandage off, like tearing it from your skin and yanking out those tiny hairs underneath. The pain was temporary, but it was over until the next occurrence.
“Good morning to you too, sunshine,” greeted his coworker, Maria.
“Ugh, don’t even get me started on the weather. It’s always gloomy and rainy.”
Maria rolled her eyes. “It’s Seattle, Charles. What do you expect?”
“Exactly! Why do we even live here? Everything sucks.”
“Oh, come on. Seattle is full of good things. Like the coffee, the food, the music scene.”
“Yeah, and the traffic, the high cost of living, the constant gray skies. It’s a wonder anyone’s happy here.”
“Well, I’m happy here,” said Maria with a smile.
“Of course you are. You’re one of those annoyingly optimistic people.”
“Hey, optimism is good for you. Scientists have proven that optimism can improve your health and well-being.”
Charles rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, well, I’d rather be miserable and die young than live a long, happy life.”
“Suit yourself,” shrugged Maria. “But if you ever change your mind, I’ll share some sunshine and rainbows with you.”
“Thanks, but I’ll stick to my rain clouds and thunderstorms.”
As they settled into work, Charles envied Maria’s positive outlook. Maybe he dismissed sunshine and rainbows too quickly. Maybe he should learn to appreciate the good things by finding humor in life's challenges.
But before he could dwell on that thought, his phone rang. His boss summoned him to the conference room for his annual review and the news of his pay increase. Charles groaned inwardly, bracing himself for the worst.
“Charles, we need to talk about your performance,” began his boss as he entered the room.
Here it comes, thought Charles: the reprimand, the criticism, the disappointment.
But his boss surprised him.
“I have to say, Charles, you’ve been doing a fantastic job. Your reports are thorough and your colleagues have nothing but praise for you. You’re a valuable asset to this team. I’ve approved a four percent merit increase along with your two percent COLA. Plus, everyone on the team is getting a $500 bonus for re-competing and winning the HHS bid.”
Stunned, Charles couldn’t believe his ears. Maybe things weren’t as bleak as he believed.
After discussing upcoming projects, he thanked his boss and walked back to his desk. His mind swirled with disbelief and astonishment. He felt pride in his work, which was rare. Perhaps he had been too quick to dismiss his abilities and accomplishments. Catching Maria’s eye, he flashed a grin.
“Hey, maybe looking for the positive has its benefits.”
He shared what his boss had said about his excellent performance and being an asset to the team. Maria chuckled.
“So, not all doom and gloom, huh? How about we grab some coffee to celebrate?”
“Sounds like a plan. And who knows, maybe we’ll even get a little sun today.”
Charles smiled as they exited the office and into the drizzly Seattle streets.
Charles left the office wondering if his pessimism had hindered him. He pondered the words of his boss, the recognition he had received, and the rewards that were now within his grasp.
On his way home, Charles noticed a homeless shelter, something he had passed by countless times before without paying it much attention. But today, he felt a tug in his heart, a newfound desire to have an impact. He parked his car and approached the shelter, determined to lend a helping hand.
Inside, the sight of people who had fallen on hard times greeted Charles. Their faces wore the weight of their struggles, and their eyes held a glimmer of hopelessness. Charles couldn’t help but feel a connection, recognizing his own past pessimism reflected in their despair.
He approached one of the shelter volunteers wearing a purple apron and serving meals behind a row of tables with food.
“Excuse me. How can I help? Do you need any more servers? I’m Charles, by the way.”
“Sure, we’re always looking for volunteers. I’m Tim. Just grab an apron from that shelf and you can help us serve dinner this evening.”
He started by volunteering to serve meals, his once apathetic spirit now replaced by a newfound sense of purpose. He listened to their stories, shared words of encouragement, and offered a genuine smile. In their gratitude, Charles found a renewed sense of joy that he had never experienced before.
One evening, some months later, as Charles was leaving the shelter, a young man approached him.
“Charles, thanks, man. Thanks for listening to my troubles, yeah. You listened and said your piece, yeah. Your timing was perfect, man. I found a job, man. I had given up.”
“Hey! That was you, Steve! You found your strength. I was just there to remind you of it.”
“Yeah. See, I’ve always loved plants and stuff, so I went to this nursery and asked if they needed help. I wouldn’t have been brave enough to approach them if it wasn’t for you. You encouraged me.”
Tears pooled in his eyes as he held out his hand, thanking Charles for giving him hope when he had thought all was lost.
Thoughts of Steve finding a job and his new romance with Maria swirled in his head as he crossed the street in front of the shelter that Saturday afternoon after serving breakfast that morning. He had worn his light-gray, hooded Seahawks sweatshirt because Maria liked the team. His hood was up because true to Seattle weather it was raining. The hood blinded his peripheral vision, so he did not see the custom-colored, dark purple Mercedes-Benz racing down the street.
He heard a thump, tires scream, felt himself flying, saw crows take flight, thought: a murder, saw raindrops that looked like stretched bubbles, felt his body hit the asphalt, heard the crunching of his bones, and felt no pain. His vision blurred as he heard a high-pitched whine in his head. Then nothing.
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
Mending love wounds:
Snowstorm, 13 December 2023
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