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Optimism leads to health, wealth, happiness


By BILL DUNCAN


For the Capital Press


My mother said she believed Gabriel Heatter, a radio newscaster in the 1940s, was partially responsible for my father's death at age 59 during World War II.


My father had six sons, all within the age range for military service. Nightly, he would be glued to the radio for news of the war effort. Each broadcast, Gabriel Heatter began with "There's bad news tonight."


The likes of Heatter, Edward R. Murrow and other famous radio commentators are only memories today, but negative news, whether in print or dispatched electronically by images and voices, is equal to "there's bad news tonight."


With all the bad news about war, terrorism, violence and the economy it is hard to maintain a positive attitude. Of all times, this is a time when we need positive thinking.


Positive thinkers, according to medical science, live 7 1/2 years longer than the population that only sees gloom and doom. Optimists are healthier and recover faster from illness, solve problems easier and generally succeed in life. Yet they are surrounded by the same worries as everyone else.


My long-time friend, the late Page Smith, who wrote a column called "Time to Live," said that after "some years of observing the human comedy/tragedy" he came to the conclusion that enthusiasm is the most "essential element in whatever progress the race has made since the days we lived in caves."


If you think what is happening on the stock market today and unemployment is doom in itself, think again. This has happened before and the economy has recovered from far worse. It is merely a bump in the road.


The Duncan clan's motto is "Learn to Suffer." Suffering is the most intense when it serves no purpose, but from my clan's viewpoint suffering in pursuit of a worthwhile goal is a necessary part of achieving a dream.


As a young boy during the Great Depression, I worked for a grocer who was undoubtedly the meanest employer in town. One day, I felt my teenage independence and quit. When my father inquired why I was not at work and heard my explanation, he sent me back to the grocery store to ask for my job back. I think the last of the mean old grocers was frightened of my dad, who stood off in the distance watching my humbling experience. I was rehired, but my employer was no kinder during the time I continued to work for him.


One Saturday when I dragged in after a particularly hard day's work, my father called me aside and told me I could give my notice on Monday. I was puzzled over his turnaround. Then in parable form he told me that one day I would have a family and he wanted me to learn the concept early that some day I would work for a meaner boss, but I couldn't quit because I didn't like the boss or the job. He was right.


Bernie Marcus was an executive of a chain of home improvement stores, until the corporate raiders swallowed the company in 1978 and fired him. Rather than bemoan the injustice of corporate America, in 1979 he co-founded Home Depot Inc. now the world's largest home improvement retailer.


If you are unemployed, there are jobs available, so long as you don't think it is beneath you to do grunt work.


My older brother, Rignal, had a substantial job with Union Oil Co. in California. His wife hated California and wanted to return to the South. He moved to Florida where no jobs in the oil field were available. He took a job gauging petroleum tanks for an oil distributor of a national company. The company owners eventually realized his knowledge was several pay grades above the minimum wage he was earning and promoted him. He eventually became vice president of the oil company.


In spite of all the bad news and naysayers, if we can maintain a positive outlook, we can overcome.


Bill Duncan can be reached by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, Ore. 97470.



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